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Key Independent Image Deciphering using Neighbourhood Similarity Characteristics and Divide-and-conquer Attack

[ Vol. 15 , Issue. 4 ]


Ram Ratan* and Arvind Yadav   Pages 6 - 16 ( 11 )


Aim: The aim of the paper is to analyse the security strength of image encryption schemes which are based on pixel rotation and inversion functions. The key independent image decryption methodologies are presented to obtain original images with intelligible contents from encrypted images using neighbourhood similarity characteristics and divide-and-conquer attack.

Background: The efficiency and security strength of secure communication of sensitive data depend on the computing resources and cryptographic strength of encryption schemes. An encryption scheme is cryptographically strong if it does not leave any weakness, vulnerability or pattern which could be exploited by cryptanalyst to obtain the original image from an encrypted image. Prior to the use of any image encryption scheme for multimedia security applications, it should be analysed for its security strength to ensure the safety of information so that an adversary could not extract intelligible information from encrypted image data. A number of encryption schemes developed for image security applications and claimed highly secure but some of these are cryptanalysed successfully and found insecure.

Objective: The analysis of image ciphers which encrypt plain images by transforming its pixels using circular rotation or inversion function in a random fashion is carried out for decrypting encrypted images to obtain original images. The encryption schemes, namely ‘Chaotic Image Encryption (CIE)’ and ‘Graphical Image Encryption (GIE)’, were reported secure but we find that these schemes are insecure which can be exploited to obtain meaningful information from the ciphered images. We apply the similarity characteristics of images to mount cryptanalytic attacks on these ciphers and obtain original images without any knowledge of the encryption/decryption keys. These encryption schemes encrypting the specified region-of-interest (ROI) are also analysed to decrypt ROI encrypted images.

Methods: The methodology of decryption is key independent and based on divide-and-conquer strategy to obtain original images from the given encrypted images. It utilizes the neighbourhood similarity of pixels in an image which is measured in terms of pixel-to-pixel difference between adjacent pixels for pixel inversion based image cipher (GIE) and line-to-line correlation between adjacent lines for pixel rotation based image cipher (CIE). The ROI encrypted and masked encrypted images are also decrypted.

Results: Experimental test results show that the decrypted images obtained are quite intelligible and one can understand the contents of decrypted images. It is also seen that an image cipher encrypting the ROI can be decrypted by utilizing unencrypted region surrounding encrypted ROI part of an image. Conclusion: It has been shown that CIE, GIE, ROI and masked encryption schemes reported for image security applications are insecure and not providing adequate security. Such encrypted images can be decrypted successfully without any key knowledge with high intelligibility by considering image similarity characteristics of neighbouring pixels and applying divide-and-conquer attack strategy.

Future work: The key independent decryption methodology can be considered to cryptanalyse the encryption schemes under noise attack scenario as future work to see the applicability of decryption methods with respect to increase in noise in encrypted images. Moreover, other modern encryption schemes based on pixel inversion and rotation functions can be analysed for their security strength.


Image encryption, circular rotation, pixel inversion, ROI encryption, cryptanalysis, decryption, neighbourhood similarity, divide-and-conquer attack.


Defence Research and Development Organisation, Scientific Analysis Group, Delhi, Department of Mathematics, Hansraj College, University of Delhi, Delhi

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