This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ PrePrints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
Steganography is the art and science of concealing information in such a way that only the sender and intended recipient of a message should be aware of its presence. Digital steganography has been used in the past on a variety of media including executable files, audio, text, games and, notably, images. Additionally, there is increasing research interest towards the use of video as a media for steganography, due to its pervasive nature and diverse embedding capabilities. In this work, we examine the embedding algorithms and other security characteristics of several video steganography tools. We show how all feature basic and severe security weaknesses. This is potentially a very serious threat to the security, privacy and anonymity of their users. It is important to highlight that most steganography users have perfectly legal and ethical reasons to employ it. Some common scenarios would include citizens in oppressive regimes whose freedom of speech is compromised, people trying to avoid massive surveillance or censorship, political activists, whistle blowers, journalists, etc. As a result of our findings, we strongly recommend to cease any use of these tools, and to remove any contents that may have been hidden, and any carriers stored, exchanged and/or uploaded online. For many of these tools, carrier files will be trivial to detect, potentially compromising any hidden data and the parties involved in the communication. We finish this work by presenting our steganalytic results, that highlight a very poor current state of the art in practical video steganography tools. There is unfortunately a complete lack of secure and publicly available tools, and even commercial tools offer very poor security. We therefore encourage the steganography community to work towards the development of more secure and accessible video steganography tools, and make them available for the general public. The results presented in this work can also be seen as a useful resource for forensic examiners to determine the existence of any video steganography materials over the course of a computer forensic investigation.
This is revision 2. The final version has been accepted in PeerJ Computer Science.