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There is nothing striking or remarkable about the tens of thousands of pictures an Iowa State University research team has spent the past 18 months collecting for a new database.
Jennifer Newman, an associate professor of math leading the team on behalf of the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence based at Iowa State, says they are not interested in aesthetics or photos worthy of framing. In fact, the dimly lit and overexposed pictures make the database valuable for researchers interested in steganalysis.
Pictures - Database - Scenes - Quality - Pictures
"The pictures in the database are of ordinary scenes, and we purposely collected poor quality pictures in different camera-setting environments," Newman said. "We've found the settings can influence how well the steganalysis detection works."
Steganalysis is of growing interest to forensic investigators analyzing digital photos, which might contain hidden content related to a criminal case. Steganography – a covert method of sending messages without detection—dates back to ancient Greece. It has evolved with technology, Newman said. Now, anyone with a simple algorithm – available through a variety of free apps – can manipulate the code of a picture or any digital file, such as a Word document or PDF, to conceal a message.
Encryption - Presence - Message - Steganography - Message
Unlike encryption, which does not mask the presence of a message, steganography "hides the message in plain sight" so someone looking at the photo would not suspect it contains hidden text, Newman said. Helping forensic investigators identify and decode these messages is the ultimate goal for researchers, but first they must establish a foundation for steganalysis, or steg detection.
That is where Newman and colleagues Yong Guan, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at ISU; and Min Wu, at the University of Maryland, along with a team of ISU graduate and undergraduate students are focusing their efforts. Armed with nearly two dozen different cell phone...
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