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Steganography vs. Cryptography: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 7, 2024
Steganography is the art of hiding information within other non-secret media, while cryptography involves encrypting information into an unreadable format.

Key Differences

Steganography and cryptography both deal with securing information, but in different ways. Steganography involves concealing the existence of information within another harmless medium, making the hidden information imperceptible. Cryptography, on the other hand, focuses on transforming information into a secret code, altering its appearance but not hiding its existence.
In steganography, the main goal is to prevent the detection of hidden information. For example, embedding a secret message in a digital image or audio file. Cryptography aims to secure information by making it unintelligible to unauthorized readers, such as using encryption algorithms to scramble text.
Steganography does not alter the structure of the message but hides it within another file or medium. Cryptography transforms the message's structure and appearance into a coded format, requiring a key for decryption.
Steganography’s effectiveness lies in its ability to conceal the presence of communication. On the contrary, cryptography announces the presence of encrypted data, but ensures that only intended recipients can understand its contents.
The use of steganography can be traced back to ancient times, like writing on a messenger's shaved head and letting the hair grow back to hide the message. Cryptography also has a long history, with examples like the Caesar cipher used in Roman times to encrypt military communications.

Comparison Chart

Primary Objective

Concealing the existence of information
Encrypting information into an unreadable format


Information is invisible and part of another medium
Information is visible but in an encrypted form

Historical Examples

Hidden messages in paintings or invisible ink
Caesar cipher, Enigma machine


Embedding data in digital images, audio, or video files
Use of algorithms and keys for encryption and decryption

Detection and Security

Hard to detect if well-implemented, less focus on security of the message itself
Easily detected but focuses on making content unreadable without a key

Steganography and Cryptography Definitions


Concealment of data within other media to avoid detection.
The artist used steganography to hide a code in his painting.


The art of writing or solving codes.
Cryptography ensured the email was readable only by the intended recipient.


Covert communication through hidden messages in various media.
Using steganography, they transmitted the plans within a video clip.


Protecting information by transforming it into an encrypted format.
Cryptography was essential for secure online banking transactions.


Hiding information within another non-secret medium.
A secret message was embedded in an innocuous image using steganography.


Encrypting text into a secret code for secure communication.
They used cryptography to protect sensitive information during transmission.


The practice of disguising information by embedding it in another format.
Steganography was used to encode secret messages in music files.


The process of converting information into an unreadable format.
Advanced cryptography techniques safeguarded the company’s data.


Secret data transmission by embedding it within something else.
The digital watermark was an example of steganography in the photograph.


A method of secure communication using encoded messages.
The military communications relied heavily on cryptography.


The deliberate concealment of data within other data, as by embedding digitized text in a digitized image.


(Computers) Any of various mathematical techniques for encrypting and decrypting data in order to keep it private when transmitted or stored electronically.


The practice of hiding messages, so that the presence of the message itself is hidden, often by writing them in places where they may not be found until someone finds the secret message in whatever is being used to hide it.


The process or skill of communicating in or deciphering secret writings or ciphers.


Specifically: the use of small computer files to communicate secret information.


Secret writing.


The art of writing in cipher, or in characters which are not intelligible except to persons who have the key; cryptography.


The discipline concerned with communication security (eg, confidentiality of messages, integrity of messages, sender authentication, non-repudiation of messages, and many other related issues), regardless of the used medium such as pencil and paper or computers.


The branch of cryptography in which messages are hidden inside other messages; - used commonly for the process of hiding messages inside a computerized image file, as for example hiding the name and copyright notice of the owner of an image as protection against violation of the copyright.


The act or art of writing in code or secret characters; also, secret characters, codes or ciphers, or messages written in a secret code.


The science which studies methods for encoding messages so that they can be read only by a person who knows the secret information required for decoding, called the key; it includes cryptanalysis, the science of decoding encrypted messages without possessing the proper key, and has several other branches; see for example steganography.


The science of analyzing and deciphering codes and ciphers and cryptograms


Act of writing in code or cipher


What is cryptography?

Cryptography is the art of encrypting information into an unreadable format for secure communication.

What is steganography?

It's the practice of hiding information within another non-secret medium.

Is steganography still relevant today?

Absolutely, steganography is used in digital watermarking and other modern applications.

Can steganography and cryptography be used together?

Yes, for enhanced security, one can encrypt a message (cryptography) and then hide it (steganography).

What is an example of steganography in history?

Ancient Greeks sent secret messages by writing on a messenger's shaved head and waiting for hair to grow back.

What are common uses of cryptography?

Cryptography is widely used in secure communications, like online transactions and email encryption.

Can steganography be detected?

While challenging, specialized software can sometimes detect steganographic techniques.

Can cryptography be broken?

With sufficient resources, some cryptographic codes can be broken, but strong encryption is very secure.

Are there different types of steganography?

Yes, including digital steganography in images, audio, and video files.

What is a cryptographic key?

A cryptographic key is a string of bits used by an algorithm to encrypt or decrypt data.

How does steganography differ from cryptography?

Steganography hides the existence of information, while cryptography makes the information unreadable but visible.

How is steganography applied in digital media?

It can involve embedding messages in digital images or audio files in a way that's undetectable to the naked eye or ear.

What's the significance of public-key cryptography?

It allows secure communication over an insecure channel without a shared secret key.

Is learning cryptography difficult?

Cryptography can be complex, involving understanding of mathematics and computer science.

Can steganography be used in physical documents?

Yes, such as invisible ink or microdots.

How do governments use steganography?

Governments may use it for covert communication or information hiding in intelligence operations.

What are some modern examples of cryptography?

SSL/TLS protocols for secure internet browsing and encrypted messaging apps.

Is steganography legal?

Generally, yes, but its usage in certain contexts, like for illicit activities, is illegal.

How secure is cryptography?

Properly implemented, it's extremely secure against unauthorized access.

What skills are needed for steganography?

Skills in computer science, especially digital media manipulation and data embedding techniques.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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