Donnerstag, 7. Januar 2021

Habilitation thesis now uploaded (PDF)

I just uploaded my habilitation thesis on the Terminology, Taxonomy, Methodology and Countermeasures of Network Information Hiding to my private server. You can download it here: PDF. I can also send you a printed copy if you like (small fee for print and mailing, just to cover my own costs).


Network information hiding is the research discipline that deals with the concealment of network transmissions or their characteristics. It serves as an umbrella for multiple research domains, namely network covert channel research, network steganography research, and traffic obfuscation research. The focus of this thesis lies primarily on network steganography and network covert channel research. 

This thesis was motivated by the fact that network information hiding requires a better scientific foundation. When the author started to work on this thesis, scientific re-inventions of hiding techniques were common (similar or equal techniques were published under different names by different scientific sub-communities). This is, at least partially, rooted in the non-unified terminology of the domain, and in the sheer fact that the ever-increasing number of publications in the domain is hardly knowable. Moreover, experimental results and descriptions for hiding techniques are hardly comparable as there is no unified standard for describing them. This is a contrast to other scientific domains, such as Chemistry, were (de facto) standards for experimental descriptions are common. Another problem is that experimental results are not replicated while other scientific domains have shown that replication studies are a necessity to ensure the quality of scientific results. Finally, there is an imbalance between known hiding techniques and their countermeasures: not enough countermeasures are known to combat all known hiding techniques. 

To address these issues, this thesis motivates and proposes methodological adjustments in network information hiding and lays the foundation for an improved fundamental terminology and taxonomy.

Moreover, hiding techniques are surveyed and summarized in the form of abstract descriptions, called hiding patterns, which form an extensible taxonomy. These hiding patterns are then used as a tool to evaluate the novelty of research contributions in a scientific peer-review process. Afterwards, this thesis addresses the problem of inconsistent descriptions of hiding techniques by proposing a unified description method for the same, including hiding patterns as a core component of every description. This thesis also introduces the WoDiCoF testbed as a framework to perform replication studies. 

Afterwards, the concept of countermeasure variation is introduced to address the problem of not having countermeasures available for certain hiding patterns. Finally, the proposed pattern-based taxonomy is enhanced to demonstrate the extensibility of the taxonomy and to integrate payload-based hiding techniques which were not foreseen in the earlier version of the taxonomy.

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