Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Barry E. Mullins, PhD.


The exploration of advanced information hiding techniques is important to understand and defend against illicit data extractions over networks. Many techniques have been developed to covertly transmit data over networks, each differing in their capabilities, methods, and levels of complexity. This research introduces a new class of information hiding techniques for use over Internet Relay Chat (IRC), called the Variable Advanced Network IRC Stealth Handler (VANISH) system. Three methods for concealing information are developed under this framework to suit the needs of an attacker. These methods are referred to as the Throughput, Stealth, and Baseline scenarios. Each is designed for a specific purpose: to maximize channel capacity, minimize shape-based detectability, or provide a baseline for comparison using established techniques applied to IRC. The effectiveness of these scenarios is empirically tested using public IRC servers in Chicago, Illinois and Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Throughput method exfiltrates covert data at nearly 800 bits per second (bps) compared to 18 bps with the Baseline method and 0.13 bps for the Stealth method. The Stealth method uses Reed-Solomon forward error correction to reduce bit errors from 3.1% to nearly 0% with minimal additional overhead. The Stealth method also successfully evades shape-based detection tests but is vulnerable to regularity-based tests.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number