What is the Difference Between Cryptography and Steganography?

Cryptography and steganography are very important techniques that have been in use for a long time. These techniques are very vital in maintaining confidentiality and integrity of data by limiting access by unauthorized persons. In this article, I will be discussing the difference between cryptography and steganography and when you should use one over the other.

Before comparing cryptography vs steganography techniques, I would like to explain the meaning of each term so that you get a clear picture of these two terms. So, what is cryptography?

Cryptography is simply the art and science of concealing the messages to introduce secrecy in information. Mathematical techniques are used to encrypt and decrypt data. This simply means cryptography uses encryption to make the message incomprehensible.

For example, before two parties can communicate securely, the sender needs to encrypt the message which is in plaintext form to ciphertext using an encryption algorithm and key. On the receiving end, the recipient uses the same key and the reverse algorithm to decrypt the message. Now, what is steganography?

Steganography is the art of hiding information in plain sight by embedding it in a file such as a picture. Steganography hides the traces of communication, you can think of this method as data hidden within another data.

For example, the use of invisible ink, pencil impressions on the handwritten characters, and small pin punctures are steganographic techniques used to prevent suspicion about the existence of the information.

Steganographic techniques involve the use of a cover carrier, the secret message, stego key, and stego carrier. Examples of stego carriers include text, audio, image, and video.

Stego carrier is generated using the cover carrier and embedded message. Finally, a stego key is used to enhance the security of the hidden data by requiring a password to extract the message.

Difference between cryptography and steganography

  • Cryptography is an art of secret writing whereas steganography is a form of hidden writing.
  • Cryptography aims at making the message unreadable to unintended parties while steganography is mainly based on making communication undetectable by disguising the form of message.
  • With steganography, the main structure of the message is not altered whereas, with cryptography, the plaintext is encrypted to ciphertext.
  • Cryptography offers a better level of security by use of ideal keys thus making the encryption scheme strong and less likely to be broken while steganography doesn’t offer the same degree of security due to the fact that no encryption is done prior to transmission.
  • Steganography can be employed on any medium such as text, audio, video, and image while cryptography is only implemented on text
  • Steganography only provides confidentiality and authentication of information whereas cryptography provides all important security aspects including confidentiality, integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation.

We can conclude that the difference between steganography and cryptography is that in cryptography, you can tell that a message has been encrypted, but you need the proper key to decode the message while in steganography, the message itself is not encrypted, but it is difficult to detect the presence of the message.

Now I want to hear from you.

What do you think of cryptography vs steganography?

Or maybe I missed an important difference between cryptography and steganography.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.


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