Binghamton University awarded $1.1 million Air Force grant to support digital-detection lab
Binghamton University will be home to a new laboratory dedicated to finding data hidden in digital images thanks to a $1.1 million award from the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome and the work of steganography expert Jessica Fridrich.
Fridrich, a research professor in the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, is receiving the award for her proposal “New Generation Methods for Digital Security: Steganography, Steganalysis, and Authentication Watermarks.”
During the 17-month project, Fridrich and her research team intend to develop and refine algorithms to detect hidden information in digital images. By successfully attacking the most advanced steganographic schemes for JPEG files, the most common digital image format, the team’s innovations would dramatically improve current detection capabilities.
JPEG files are compressed images, which presents a difficult challenge both for hiding and detecting information in them. Current detection techniques for JPEGs have not been reliable and generally allow transmission of large hidden messages without fear of detection. To date, detection techniques were oriented toward BMPs and GIFs (two of the other digital image formats). But in the last few months, Fridrich has made significant progress towards developing groundbreaking methods for detecting secret messages hidden in JPEGs.
As part of the project, Fridrich and her team plan to build a demonstration digital camera capable of invisibly embedding an image of the user’s iris into photos taken with the camera in order to authenticate the images. Such technology will become more important as forensics experts and military intelligence operatives rely more on digital cameras. According to Fridrich, the process will be imperceptible to the user and will provide a human signature, like a fingerprint, on every image taken with the camera.
The $1.1 million award is the latest in a seven-year, string of major awards that have made Fridrich and her research program self-supporting. Two or three post-doctoral researchers and five graduate students will work on the project, and powerful computers, digital cameras, specialized software and related hardware will be purchased for her laboratory.