Coverless image steganography using partial-duplicate image retrieval

  • Zhili Zhou
  • Yan Mu
  • Q. M. Jonathan Wu
Methodologies and Application


Most of the existing image steganographic approaches embed the secret information imperceptibly into a cover image by slightly modifying its content. However, the modification traces will cause some distortion in the stego-image, especially when embedding color image data that usually contain thousands of bits, which makes successful steganalysis possible. In this paper, we propose a novel coverless steganographic approach without any modification for transmitting secret color image. In our approach, instead of modifying a cover image to generate the stego-image, steganography is realized by using a set of proper partial duplicates of a given secret image as stego-images, which are retrieved from a natural image database. More specifically, after dividing each database image into a number of non-overlapping patches and indexing those images based on the features extracted from these patches, we search for the partial duplicates of the secret image in the database to obtain the stego-images, each of which shares one or several visually similar patches with the secret image. At the receiver end, by using the patches of the stego-images, our approach can approximately recover the secret image. Since the stego-images are natural ones without any modification traces, our approach can resist all of the existing steganalysis tools. Experimental results and analysis prove that our approach not only has strong resistance to steganalysis, but also has desirable security and high hiding capability.


Coverless steganographic approach Partial-duplicate image retrieval Stego-image Capacity Security 



This work was supported, in part, by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under grant numbers 61602253, U1536206, 61232016, U1405254, 61373132, 61373133, 61502242, 61572258, and 61672294; in part, by the Jiangsu Basic Research Programs-Natural Science Foundation under grant numbers BK20150925 and BK20151530; in part, by the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions (PAPD) fund; and in part, by the Collaborative Innovation Center of Atmospheric Environment and Equipment Technology (CICAEET) fund, China.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Computer and Software and Jiangsu Engineering Center of Network MonitoringNanjing University of Information Science and TechnologyNanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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