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PadSteg: introducing inter-protocol steganography

Abstract

Hiding information in network traffic may lead to leakage of confidential information. In this paper we introduce a new steganographic system: the PadSteg (Padding Steganography). To authors’ best knowledge it is the first information hiding solution which represents inter-protocol steganography i.e. usage of relation between two or more protocols from the TCP/IP stack to enable secret communication. PadSteg utilizes ARP and TCP protocols together with an Etherleak vulnerability (improper Ethernet frame padding) to facilitate secret communication for hidden groups in LANs (Local Area Networks). Basing on real network traces we confirm that PadSteg is feasible in today’s networks and we estimate what steganographic bandwidth is achievable while limiting the chance of disclosure. We also point at possible countermeasures against PadSteg.

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Correspondence to Wojciech Mazurczyk.

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Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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Jankowski, B., Mazurczyk, W. & Szczypiorski, K. PadSteg: introducing inter-protocol steganography. Telecommun Syst 52, 1101–1111 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11235-011-9616-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11235-011-9616-z

Keywords

  • Steganography
  • ARP
  • Frame padding
  • Etherleak