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Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity



M. Padmaa and Y. Venkataramani
 
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ABSTRACT

This study deals with a novel steganographic technique which demonstrates dynamic encryption based image steganographic technique in the spatial domain that hides message inside another carrier color image where the authenticated receiver can only extract this embedded secrete using the secrete key(s). This study proposed to merge the imperceptibility of pixel indicator embedding technique along with multiple key encryptions. The trap lies in encrypting the raw data into four sets of messages D1, D2, D3 and D4, say using four different keys K1, K2, K3 and K4, respectively. The encrypted messages are then embedded into cover image producing 4 stego objects. From these object, deviations of each row with respect to the cover are compared and based on minimum error, the corresponding row is selected to form the final image, thereby constructing a final image superior to its parent images. This technique also provides with suitable security owing to the fact that the concealed data cannot be deciphered until the appropriate parent key is used for the appropriate row.

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  How to cite this article:

M. Padmaa and Y. Venkataramani, 2014. Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity. Research Journal of Information Technology, 6: 342-355.

DOI: 10.3923/rjit.2014.342.355

URL: https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=rjit.2014.342.355
 
Received: February 01, 2014; Accepted: June 02, 2014; Published: July 27, 2014



INTRODUCTION

Man has trampled in an era where almost everything and everyone is hooked to the internet. With advent of path breaking technologies, these sophisticated gadgets have significantly reduced in dimension leading this espionage to calamitous level. A majority of these inventions contribute solely to the field of communication, making the world smaller for the technically equipped humans. This has been the driving force towards collection and assimilation of huge chunks of data round the globe. However, this also led to the need for various security measures that need to be taken to protect the identity and the nature of information from adversaries while allowing our comrades to access them. This paved the way towards the birth of cryptography where the concerned data was rendered itself as incomprehensible unless the seeker had the key to modify and understand the message. But with the exponentially increasing computational capabilities, one needed to find a more discreet and covert modes of communication. Information hiding was able to answer to this requirement (Amirtharajan and Rayappan, 2012a-d, 2013; Amirtharajan et al., 2010, 2011, 2013a-j; Cheddad et al., 2010; Janakiraman et al., 2012a, b, 2014a, b; Luo et al., 2011; Mohammad et al., 2011; Salem et al., 2011; Ramalingam et al., 2014a, b; Thien and Lin, 2003; Zhao and Luo, 2012).

The present day world has been revolving around the rising communication technology and its various effects. The need of the hour can be critically stated as the security of the millions of data transmitted over the communication channel. While there have been very good techniques developed every day there are many people who increasingly get access to the secured data in an unauthorized manner (Amirtharajan and Rayappan, 2012a-d, 2013; Cheddad et al., 2010; Chan and Cheng, 2004). Internet has been elevated as one of the highly used communication means in the recent times. It is the easiest means to transmit data around the world. Cryptography along with steganography has turned up in front of us, as a lethal weapon or face saving technique to preserve the valuable information from the eavesdroppers reach (Padmaa et al., 2011; Padmaa and Venkataramani, 2014a, b; Rajagopalan et al., 2012a, b, 2014a-d).

Cryptography is the art of encrypting data which can be achieved by versatile algorithms. Steganography refers to concealing the existence of data itself by means of combining it with other forms of data like images (Wu and Tsai, 2003; Janakiraman et al., 2012a, b, 2013; Amirtharajan and Rayappan, 2012b; Thanikaiselvan et al., 2012a-c, 2013a, b), audios and videos etc. Combination of the two methods can materialize into a methodology which has the qualities inherited from both. The main motto of this study is to increase the imperceptibility when an image is used as a means for hiding data. Imperceptible means to be as subtle as possible or to be unidentifiable.

Information hiding is a communication game between an information hider and an attacker, in which information is available only to the information hider and to the decoder. Characteristics expected from information hiding vary for every type of application depending on some of the prime features such as imperceptible, robustness, security etc. andsecure communication is recent through OFDM and Spread Spectrum is vital for information security (Thenmozhi et al., 2012; Praveenkumar et al., 2012a, b, 2013a, b, 2014a-j).

The simple classification on steganography is spatial or transform (Amirtharajan and Rayappan, 2013), further classified based on cover like text, image, video and audio (Cheddad et al., 2010; Amirtharajan et al., 2012; Amirtharajan and Rayappan, 2013). After knowing the existing method this study focused on Image steganography.

METHODOLOGY

Present study, uses four keys to encrypt the secret data and embed in the same cover image, thus producing 4 different stego images respectively, virtually imperceptible to the human eye but prone to stego analysis and its statistical attacks. Hence, to avoid this, by distributed error in all the 3 planes taking advantage of the presence of the different channels available in a color image. Instead of embedding in a single plane, in this proposed method used Pixel Indicator technique to distribute error in all three planes based on Pixel Indicator.

To increase the security level, pseudo random sequence generator is used to select the order of the rows initially and then an indicator plane/channel governs the embedding of data between the other two channels (data channels). In the color image, the red plane can be chosen as the indicator plane wherein the least significant bits in every pixel in this channel is used to decide the embedding. Throughout this embedding process, the indicator plane/channel is not to be altered since then this method cannot recover the data if it is modified/tampered/edited etc.

Since, the data to be hidden is usually embedded in predetermined fashion of k bits. Present method used Optimal Pixel Adjustment Process to further reduce the mean square error. Once the above mentioned processes are completed and 4 stego images are generated every row from these are compared against the corresponding row in cover image. This step allows determining the relative deviation of each of these with respect to the cover image.

The stego object which provides the least deviation for the concerned row contributes to the formation of the particular row in the new hybrid stego image, thereby acting as the parent image for it. Thus, the hybrid image is a composition of rows from 4 different parents providing suitably lower error rates. This also produces a certain cryptic effect as the user would need to know the genetic sequence in which the rows were formed. This acts as another key which can be passed to the authorized user alone to prevent malicious users from deciphering the data (Fig. 1).

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
Fig. 1:Proposed block diagram

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
Fig. 2: Proposed flowchart for embedding

The proposed flowchart for embedding secret shows in Fig. 2.

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
Fig. 3: Flowchart for extraction

The proposed flowchart for extracting the secret is shown in Fig. 3.

Embedding algorithm:
Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity

Extracting algorithm:
Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity

RESULT AND DISCUSSION

Three color cover images of Temple, Lena and Baboon of dimension 256x256 are taken to verify the performance of this algorithm. These images go through the testing of full embedding capability. To have a vision about the efficacy, corresponding stego images are generated and studied Fig. 4-6. The Mean Square Error (MSE) and Peak Signal to Noise Ratio (PSNR) can be used to determine how the original cover image has been affected by the embedded message. Though the MSE and PSNR show that there has been degradation in the in the original image, these degradations are visually imperceptible. The MSE and PSNR values are calculated, tabled and compared (Table 1).

The other important parameter is the SSIM index which is almost close to unity which implies that there is no much deviation between the original image and the stego image generated. The security of the embedded message is very good because here we used 4 individual 8-bit user defined keys which are required to recover the message.

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
Fig. 4(a-c): Color cover image of Temple (a) Cover image, (b) Stego image and (c) RGB histogram of stego image

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
Fig. 5(a-c): Color cover image of Lena (a) Cover image, (b) Stego image and (c) RGB histogram of stego image

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
Fig. 6(a-c): Color cover image of Baboon (a) Cover image, (b) Stego image and (c) RGB histogram of stego image

Table 1: MSE and PSNR values for intermediate stego images (Red plane as indicator)
Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity

But even if the keys are known without knowing the order sequence of each plane it becomes very hard to recover the original data. Order sequence is the row-key mapping to decrypt the retrieved data from the embedded stego image.

Peak Signal to Noise Ratio (PSNR): The PSNR is calculated as follows:

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
(1)

where, imax is the maximum pixel value of image.

Mean Square Error (MSE): The MSE is calculated by using the following equation:

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
(2)

where, M and N represent the total number of pixels in the horizontal and the vertical dimensions of the image Ci, j represents the pixels in the original image and Si, j, represents the pixels of the stego-image.

Mean Structural SIMilarity Index (MSSIM): Mean SSIM (MSSIM) index is used to evaluate the overall image quality by using the following equation:

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity
(3)

Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity

The value of MSSIM is in the interval [1, 0]. The value 1 means that the two images are exactly the same and 0 means totally unrelated. Bit error rate (BER) computes the actual number of bit positions which are changed in the stego-image compared with cover image:

Embedding capacity = Bits ebedded per pixelxNo. of pixels in thje cover image

From Table 2, It’s noted that Temple offer better imperceptibility without compromising capacity and MSSIM is also close to 1 for k = 1, 2 and 3 but for K = 4 its value 0.925. So k = 1, 2 till 3 and this proposed method is good.

From Table 3, It’s noted that Lena offer better Imperceptibility without compromising Capacity and MSSIM is also close to 1 for k = 1,2 and 3 but for K = 4 its value 0.9437. So k = 1,2 till 3. This proposed From Table 4 It’s noted that Baboon offer better Imperceptibility without compromising Capacity and MSSIM is also close to 1 for k = 1, 2 and 3 but for K = 4 its value 0.9860. So k = 1, 2 till 3.

From Table 5, It’s noted that Baboon offer better imperceptibility without compromising capacity. In comparison with available result this method offers better capacity with less PSNR.

Table 2: Temple stego images with other metrics (Red plane as indicator)
Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity

Table 3: Lena stego images with other metrics (Red plane as indicator)
Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity

Table 4: Baboon stego images with other metrics (Red plane as indicator)
Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity

Table 5: Proposed method performance with comparative results
Image for - Encrypted Secret Blend with Image Steganography for Enhanced Imperceptibility and Capacity

Application of Optimal Pixel Adjustment Process (OPAP) improves image quality and the results suggest that there is a good improvement in the SSIM index which indicates that the stego output is very close to the cover image.

CONCLUSION

By combining multiple key data encryption with pixel indicator, proposed method obtained very high imperceptibility with high capacity. Even if the keys are known, without knowing the order sequence of each plane it becomes very hard to recover the original data. Order sequence is the row-key mapping to decrypt the retrieved data from the embedded stego image. The complexity of the proposed system is (232)x(2512) i.e., 4 keys each of 8 bit is used and 2 bits are used to specify the order and the size of image is 256x256. Further enhancement along with this method compression and more encryption will offer more capacity and better security.

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