outguess(1) universal steganographic tool


outguess [ -emt ] [ -r ] [ -k key ] [ -F [+-] ] [ -d datafile ] [ -s seed ] [ -i limit ] [ -x maxkeys ] [ -p param ] [ inputfile [ outputfile ]]


Outguess is a universal steganographic tool that allows the insertion of hidden information into the redundant bits of data sources. The nature of the data source is irrelevant to the core of outguess. The program relies on data specific handlers that will extract redundant bits and write them back after modification. Currently only the PPM, PNM, and JPEG image formats are supported, although outguess could use any kind of data, as long as a handler were provided.

Outguess uses a generic iterator object to select which bits in the data should be modified. A seed can be used to modify the behavior of the iterator. It is embedded in the data along with the rest of the message. By altering the seed, outguess tries to find a sequence of bits that minimizes the number of changes in the data that have to be made.

A bias is introduced that favors the modification of bits that were extracted from a high value, and tries to avoid the modification of bits that were extracted from a low value.

Additionally, Outguess allows for the hiding of two distinct messages in the data, thus providing plausible deniablity. It keeps track of the bits that have been modified previously and locks them. A (23,12,7) Golay code is used for error correction to tolerate collisions on locked bits. Artifical errors are introduced to avoid modifying bits that have a high bias.


The following command line options, when specified as capital letters, indicate options for the second message.

-F [+-]
Specifies that OutGuess should preserve statistics based on frequency counts. As a result, no statistical test that is based on frequency counts will be able to detect steganographic content. This option is on by default.
-kK key
Specify the secret key used to encrypt and hide the message in the provided data.
-dD datafile
Specify the filename containing a message to be hidden in the data.
-sS seed
Specify the initial seed the iterator object uses for selecting bits in the redundant data. If no upper limit is specified, the iterator will use this seed without searching for a more optimal embedding.
-iI limit
Specify the upper limit for finding an optimal iterator seed. The maximum value for the limit is 65535.
Use error correction for data encoding and decoding.

Other options that apply to the general execution of outguess:

Retrieve a message from a data object. If this option is not specified, outguess will embed messages.
-x maxkeys
If the second key does not create an iterator object that is successful in embedding the data, the program will derive up to specified number of new keys.
-p param
Passes a string as parameter to the destination data handler. For the JPEG image format, this is the compression quality, it can take values between 75 and 100. The higher the quality the more bits to hide a message in the data are available.
Mark pixels that have been modified.
Collect statistics about redundant bit usage. Repeated use increases output level.

For embedding messages, you need to specify a source and a destination filename. Outguess determines the data format by the filename extension. If no filenames are specified outguess operates as a filter and assumes the PPM data format.


To embed the message hidden.txt into the monkey.jpg image:

outguess -k "my secret pass phrase" -d hidden.txt monkey.jpg out.jpg

And in the other direction:

outguess -k "my secret pass phrase" -r out.jpg message.txt

will retrieve the hidden message from the image.

If you want to embed a second message, use:

outguess -k "secret1" -d hide1.txt -E -K "secret2" -D hide2.txt monkey.jpg out.jpg

Outguess will first embed hide1.txt and then hide2.txt on top of it, using error correcting codes. The second message hide2.txt can be retrieved with

outguess -k "secret2" -e -r out.jpg message.txt


Niels Provos <[email protected]>