The Design and Implementation of a Steganographic Communication System over In-Band Acoustical Channels

Tao Chen, Longfei Shangguan, Zhenjiang Li, Kyle Jamieson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article presents SoundSticker, a system for steganographic, in-band data communication over an acoustic channel. In contrast with recent works that hide bits in inaudible frequency bands, SoundSticker embeds hidden bits in the audible sounds, making them more reliably survive audio codecs and bandpass filtering, while achieving a higher data rate and remaining imperceptible to a listener. The key observation behind SoundSticker is that the human ear is less sensitive to the audio phase changes than the frequency and amplitude changes, which leaves us an opportunity to alter the phase of an audio clip to convey hidden information. We take advantage of this opportunity and build an OFDM-based physical layer. To make this PHY-layer design work for a variety of end devices with heterogeneous computation resources, SoundSticker addresses multiple technical challenges including perceivable waveform artifacts caused by the phase-based modulation, bit rate adaptation without channel sounding and real-Time preamble detection. Our prototype on both smartphones and ESP32 platforms demonstrates SoundSticker's superior performance against the state of the arts, while preserving excellent sound quality and remaining unaffected by common audio codecs like MP3 and AAC. Audio clips produced by SoundSticker can be found at

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number90
JournalACM Transactions on Sensor Networks
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 10 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications


  • Additional Key Words and PhrasesAcoustics
  • communications
  • embedded boards
  • microphones
  • mobile phones
  • real-Time systems


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