Open access peer-reviewed chapter

A Novel Quantum Steganography Scheme Based on ASCII

By Ri-Gui Zhou and Jia Luo

Submitted: February 13th 2019Reviewed: April 18th 2019Published: May 22nd 2019

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.86413

Downloaded: 392


Based on the novel enhanced quantum representation for quantum image (NEQR), a new blind quantum steganography scheme is proposed. In this scheme, an improved quantum representation of text utilizing ASCII is provided that uses two qubit sequences to store the same quantum text message. The general embedding process of the scheme is as follows: firstly, the cover image of sized 2 n × 2 n will be divided into eight blocks of sized 2 n − 2 × 2 n − 1 , and the secret quantum text of sized 2 n − 2 × 2 n − 1 is scrambled by Gray code transform method. Then, the disorder quantum text is embedded into the eight blocks of cover image employing the Gray code as a judgment condition. Meanwhile, the corresponding quantum circuits are drawn. Through the analysis of all quantum circuits, it can be concluded that the scheme has a lower complexity, that is, O(n). And the performance of the proposed scheme is analyzing in terms of simulation results of three items: visual quality, circuit complexity, and robustness.


  • quantum steganography
  • quantum text
  • Gray code
  • quantum circuit

1. Introduction

With the advantage of quantum physics, quantum computer has demonstrated a bright prospect over than the classic computer, especially in Grover’s database searching algorithm [1] and Shor’s prime factor decomposition algorithm [2].

Over the past few decades, teams of researchers have been noticed by quantum image processing that is a young emerging cross-discipline of image processing and quantum mechanics. The investigation in this direction is how to construct the quantum representations to represent images on quantum computer at first. So various quantum representations have been proposed, such as, Qubit Lattice [3], entangled image [4], real ket [5], flexible representation of quantum images (FRQI) [6], a novel enhanced quantum representation of digital images (NEQR) [7], multi-channel representation for quantum images (MCRQI) [8], a normal arbitrary quantum superposition state (NAQSS) [9], and a novel quantum representation for color digital images (NCQI) [10]. Secondly, many kinds of quantum image processing algorithms were developed, such as geometric transformations [11, 12], image translation [13, 14, 15], image scaling [16, 17, 18], image scrambling [19, 20, 21], image segmentation [22], feature extraction [23], edge detection [24], and image matching [25, 26].

It is worth pointing out that the protection of network information, especially the increasing number of multimedia information on the network, has attracted researcher’s attention. Thus information hiding was came into being a hot issue, which utilizes the sensory redundancy of the human sense organ to the digital signal, hiding a message in another ordinary message without changing the essential characteristics and use value of the ordinary message.

Similarly, quantum information hiding also includes steganography and watermarking, which have been gradually studied as the two main branches of quantum information hiding technology. In 2012, Iliyasu et al. proposed a quantum image watermarking algorithm based on restricted geometric transformations [27]. Zhang et al. introduced a protocol in 2013, that the watermark image was embedded into the Fourier coefficients of the quantum carrier image [28]. Later on, a dynamic watermarking scheme for quantum images based on Hadamard transform was proposed by Song et al. [29]. Two blind steganography algorithms based on LSB were proposed by Jiang et al. [30]. Miyake proposed a quantum watermarking scheme using simple and small-scale quantum circuits [31]. In this algorithm, the gray scale image was first used as a secret image. A watermarking scheme through Arnold scrambling and LSB was proposed by Zhou et al. [32], in which the quantum equal circuit was demonstrated. In 2017, Abd-El-Atty et al. proposed a new steganography scheme with Hadamard transformation [33]. In this scheme, the quantum text message was hided into the cover image. In addition, some algorithms that adopt color image as cover image have also been reported [34, 35, 36, 37]. Wherein, a quantum copyright protection method based on a new quantum representation of text was presented by Heidari et al. [34].

In order to reduce the qubits of the representation of text in literature [34], we introduce an improved quantum representation of text. Then, the quantum text will be embedded in cover image through utilizing Gray code and quantum gates. Furthermore, the extracting procedure is absolutely blind and without any other help from classical computer.

The physical implementation of qubits and gates is difficult, for the same reasons that quantum phenomena are hard to observe in everyday life. One approach is to implement the quantum computers in superconductors, where the quantum effects become macroscopic, though at a price of extremely low operation temperatures.

In a superconductor, the basic charge carriers are pairs of electrons (known as Cooper pairs), rather than the single electrons in a normal conductor. At every point of a superconducting electronic circuit (that is a network of electrical elements), the condensate wave function describing the charge flow is well-defined by a specific complex probability amplitude. In a normal conductor electrical circuit, the same quantum description is true for individual charge carriers, however the various wave functions are averaged in the macroscopic analysis, making it impossible to observe quantum effects. The condensate wave function allows designing and measuring macroscopic quantum effects. And successive generations of IBM Q processors have demonstrated the potential of superconducting transmon qubits as the basis for electrically controlled solid-state quantum computers. But in this chapter, we focus on the theoretical design of quantum steganography scheme and describe it in the remaining sections.

The rest of the chapter is organized as follows. Section 2 gives fundamental knowledge of NEQR, Gray code and quantum equal circuit. The improved quantum representation of text is provided in Section 3. The proposed embedding and extracting procedures are depicted in Section 4. In Section 5, simulations and analysis that include visual quality, capacity, robustness, and computational complexity are provided. Finally, the conclusion is drawn in Section 6.


2. Preliminaries

2.1 NEQR

For a gray scale image, a novel enhanced quantum representation of digital images (NEQR) was proposed in 2013 [7]. A quantum image can be described by the NEQR model as follows:


where, YXrepresents the position information and CYXiencodes the color information.


Thus, there are q+2nqubits being employed to store image information into a NEQR state for an 2n×2nimage with gray range 02q. An example of an 2 × 2 image with ranged 0281, i.e., n = 2, q = 8 is demonstrated in Figure 1, in which the equation indicates that NEQR model stores the whole image in the superposition of the two entangled qubit sequences, encoding the color and position information, respectively.

Figure 1.

A 2 × 2 example image and its representative expression in NEQR.

Replace the entirety of this text with the main body of your chapter. The main body is where the author explains experiments, presents and interprets data of one’s research. Authors are free to decide how the main body will be structured. However, you are required to have at least one heading. Please ensure that either British or American English is used consistently in your chapter.

2.2 Gray code

The typical binary Gray Code, called the Gray Code, was originally proposed by Frank Gray in 1953 for communication purposes and is now commonly used in analog-to-digital and position-to-digital conversion. In a group of Gray codes, there is only one different binary number between any two adjacent codes, as well as in the maximum and minimum numbers. By Gray code transform, the binary code can be converted into Gray code [21]. Denote nq=nq1nq2n1n0as a q-bit binary code, where niis a binary bit, the definition of Gray code transform is as follows:


and its inverse transform is:


their corresponding quantum circuits are illustrated in Figure 2a and b.

Figure 2.

Quantum circuits of (a) Gray code transform and (b) inverse Gray code transform.

The transformed binary code gq=gq1gq2g1g0is defined as the q-bit Gray code of nq. An example of Gray code where the bit number q = 1, 2, 3 is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3.

1-bit, 2-bit and 3-bit Gray codes.

2.3 Quantum equal circuit

In literature [32], Zhou et al. provided a quantum equal circuit to determine whether two qubit sequences are equal or not. The quantum circuit is shown in Figure 4, which compares YXand AB, where YX=YX=yn1y0xn1x0and AB=AB=an1a0bn1b0, yi,xi,ai,bi0,1,i=n1,,0. Qubit cis output. If c=1, YX= AB, otherwise, YXAB.

Figure 4.

Quantum equal circuit.

3. The improved representation of quantum text

ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) is a Latin alphabet-based computerized coding system that is the most versatile single-byte coding system available today [38]. The ASCII code uses the specified combination of 7-bit or 8-bit binary sequence to represent 128 or 256 possible characters. A standard ASCII code that uses 7-bit binary sequence (a total 8-bit sequence and the remaining 1-bit is 0) to represent all uppercase and lowercase letters, Arabic numerals, punctuation marks, and special control characters used in American English. Zero to thirty one and 127 (33 in total) are special characters for control or communication, and the rest are displayable characters. Figure 5 shows a table of characters that can be displayed.

Figure 5.

ASCII of displayable characters.

Through analysis of the quantum text representation model proposed in literature [34], it is known that the model uses a seven-qubit sequence to store one character in the text message. In our proposed scheme, an improved quantum representation of text based on ASCII is proposed. Like NEQR model, the model including text message and position information. The text message fYXon the corresponding coordinates YXis encoded using ASCII of 8-bit binary sequence TYX7TYX6TYX2TYX1TYX0,TYXi01,i=0,1,,7, this quantum text-representation model can be expressed as in Eq. (5) for a 2n×2mtext.


Figure 6 illustrates an example of a 2 × 4 text and its representative expression, where eight qubits are desired to store the text message and three qubits to store the position information. Therefore, this model just needs 8+n+mqubits to represent a 2n×2mtext, namely there are 2n+msymbols be stored. It is can be captured according to [34] which fifty-six qubits and 7×2n+mqubits are required to represent the text in this example and a text of 2n+msymbols, respectively.

Figure 6.

A 2 × 4 text and its representative expression.

In order to embed the text information into quantum image, firstly, the text information needs to be transformed into a quantum state. The preparation procedure will now be described.

Step 1: this step is to prepare 8+n+mqubits that all are with state 0. The initial state ψ0can be expressed as in Eq. (6):


Step 2: two single-qubit gates, Iand H(shown in Eq. (7)), are used to transform ψ0to the intermediate state ψ1, which is the superposition of all the characters of an empty text. The unitary operation U1can be written in Eq. (8):


The operation U1 is setting on the ψ0as shown in Eq. (9), and the position information is prepared in ψ1.


Step 3: In this step, 2n+msub-operations used to store the text message value for every position. In position YX, the unitary operation UYXis shown below:


where, ΩYXis a unitary operation as shown in Eq. (11), which is manipulating on ψ1for altering digital representation of characters to the quantum state.


And if TYXi=1, ΩYXiis a (n + m)-CNOT gate, otherwise if TYXi=0then ΩYXiis a quantum identity gate. Therefore, the text message value in position (Y, X) is preparing by employing unitary operationΩYX:


Applying UYXon intermediate state ψ1, the transformation is shown in Eq. (13).


To store all the values to the quantum state, the whole operation Uthat consists of 2n+msub-operations and shown in Eq. (14) is necessary. The final state ψ2that is transformed from ψ1is the improved representation of quantum text.


4. Proposed scheme

This section will discuss the particulars of embedding and extracting procedures about the proposed steganography scheme that hides a secret text into a cover grayscale image. Assume that the sizes for cover image and secret text are 2n×2nand 2n2×2n1, respectively, the quantum representation can be formulated in Eqs. (15) and (16).


The general framework for the proposed scheme is shown in Figure 7, from which we can see that it is delineated into the classical and quantum domains. The preparation interface can transform classic image data into quantum states, which realizes the function of preparing the quantum image [7]. After the quantum image is stored in quantum states, our proposed quantum image steganography scheme can be implemented to transform the original quantum states to the desired states through the designed embedding circuits. Then, the quantum measurement operation is utilized to retrieve the processed image information. And once identified, the stego image is sent to the receiver by the public channel. The extraction operations are similarly for the receiver.

Figure 7.

The general framework of the proposed scheme.

4.1 Embedding procedure

The embedding procedure in the proposed scheme is as follows.

  1. Transform a classical cover image with 2n×2nsize and eight bits gray scale into a quantum image Cby NEQR, and transform a secret text with size 2n2×2n1into a quantum text Tby ASCII expression.

  2. Scramble the secret text Tto be a meaningless text T̂by Gray code transforming method.

  3. The cover image will be divided into eight blocks of the same size and the secret text will be divided into eight bit-planes.

  4. The divided eight bit-planes are embedded into eight blocks one by one.

4.1.1 Scrambling

For purpose of improving the security of secret text, the text message of Twill be scrambled by Gray code transform before the embedding procedure. As mentioned in Subsection 2.2, in the eight qubits which store the text message, seven CNOT gates are used according to Gray code transform method, while the qubits representing for position information are not changed by quantum gates, the corresponding circuit is demonstrated in Figure 8.

Figure 8.

Scrambling by Gray code transform.

4.1.2 Partitioning

In the proposed scheme, the 2n×2ncover image is divided into 4×2blocks sized 2n2×2n1. We define these blocks as Bij, where i=ynyn1and j=xnare called control coordinates because if they are restricted as a specific value, then one of blocks will be selected. For example, if their values are equal to 00and 0, then 2n2×2n1pixels in the top-left corner, that is, the first block B000is designated. For quantum text, the binary length of text message is eight, i.e., the text can be separated into eight bit-planes. Assume that the highest bit is embedded in B000, the second highest bit is embedded in B001, and so on. An example of partition with cover image size of 23×23and secret text size of 21×22is illustrated in Figure 9.

Figure 9.

An example of partition.

4.1.3 Embedding

After dividing the cover image, the quantum equal (QE) circuit is used to compare the coordinates of a block and quantum text. Then, the stego image Sis obtained after embedding process. More specifically, taking one of the blocks as an illustration, if the coordinates yn3yn4y0xn2xn3x0of Cis equal to the coordinates of T̂, T̂iis embedded in C0by the following pseudo-code.

If T̂i= 1



Else if GRAYCYX7CYX6CYX5is odd



If T̂i= 0



Else if GRAYCYX7CYX6CYX5is odd



where the function GRAYiis the Gray code value of i, and the function SWAPijis to swap the value of iand j. The corresponding embed block circuit is shown in Figure 10a and b presents the integrated embedding circuit that contains the selection of the block of cover image, the comparison of the coordinates, and the embedding process of the bit-planes of secret text into the LSB of cover image.

Figure 10.

Embedding circuit: (a) specific embedding block circuit and (b) the whole circuit.

4.2 Extraction procedure

Like all the information hiding papers, only the receiver can extract the message. But it is worth pointing out the receiver only uses the stego image to extract the secret text in our scheme that means it is a blind scheme. The extracting procedure can be described as follows.

  1. Extract and reorganize the bit plane from the stego image to obtain the disordered text T̂.

  2. Descramble T̂by using inverse Gray code transform in order to obtain original secret textT.

4.2.1 Extraction

As can be seen from the above, the eight bit-planes of the secret text can be extracted from the eight blocks of the stego image. Accordingly, we can consider one block as an example. If the position of the stego image and the auxiliary blank quantum text are equal, and GRAYSYX7SYX6SYX5is even and CYX0=1or GRAYSYX7SYX6SYX5is odd and CYX0=0, then T̂i=1. The corresponding circuit is shown in Figure 11a, and a whole extracting circuit that combines the extraction of all eight blocks together is exposed in Figure 11b.

Figure 11.

Extracting circuit: (a) specific extracting block circuit and (b) the whole circuit.

4.2.2 Descrambling

Due to the operators used in embedding process are unitary, for this step of extracting process, we can use the inverse transpose of operators used in the embedding process. Figure 12 affords the quantum circuit to extract the secret image TfromT̂.

Figure 12.

Inverse transform.

5. Simulations and analysis

In this section, some simulations and analysis of the results and properties of the proposed scheme are demonstrated. All the simulations are based on a classical computer equipped with software Matlab R2014b. The secret text of size 64 × 128 used in our proposed scheme is full of “Quantum Text and Quantum Image.” And all the cover images are with size of 256 × 256, and shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13.

Cover images used in the proposed scheme.

In general quantum image steganography scheme, the peak-signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) is one of the most employed techniques to compare the fidelity of the stego image and the cover image. However, Iliyasu et al. explained that these available classical metrics are insufficient and/or ill-suited to effectively quantify the fidelity between two or more quantum images [39]. And in Refs. [39, 40], a wholly quantum-based metric to assess fidelity between quantum images (QIFM) is proposed. By using a statistical analysis they established that the proposed QIFM metric had a better correlation with digital image quality assessments of congruity than the other quantum image quality measures. And the formulation of the QIFM metric is the important in ensuring that applications sensitive to the peculiarities of quantum computation are formulated for effective quantum image processing (QIP). Before this, inspired to Ref. [41] that proposed a method to analyze the similarity between two quantum images of the same size based on the flexible representation of quantum images, a quantum image matching algorithm was introduced in [26], which sums up all the grayscale differences between two quantum images. In this chapter, we use the above two algorithms to assess the similarity of two images.

5.1 Visual quality

To verify the visual quality of the proposed scheme, we use the algorithm introduced in [26] to compare the congruity of the stego image and the cover image. Here, we briefly describe the algorithm as follows and the details can be acquired in [26].

Quantum stego image is directly mapped with quantum cover image, i.e., the quantum register representing each corresponding pixel of the quantum template image is subtracted from that of the quantum reference image by running a quantum subtractor. According to the quantum measurement results, all the grayscale difference can be summed. The smaller the sum, the higher the similarity between two quantum images, that is, the better visual quality of the stego image.

Table 1 shows the sum of all the grayscale differences between the stego image and the cover image, in which the secret text 1 is embedded.

Cover imageStego imageSum of differences

Table 1.

Sum of all the grayscale differences between cover image and stego image.

Compared with the value 5,189,090 of Lena with watermark in Ref. [26], we can see that the values of the sum all the grayscale differences between cover image and stego image in our proposed scheme are smaller.

5.2 Robustness

In a noise-free environment, the proposed scheme can extract an intact secret text. However, the text extracting procedure is not always performed in a noiseless environment. The fidelity of the extracted text from the stego image under noise (simulate with salt and pepper noise) is verified, that is, using the QIFM metric. In this chapter, we give an outline of the steps of QIFM metric. For more details of the concepts and principles of QIFM, the reader can referred to [40].

Based on a pixel threshold (p) that assigns a value of zero or one to the pixel when 0p<127or 128p<255, respectively. The content of both the cover and stego image is converted into their binary versions. Then the binary detail between cover image Icand stego image Isis evaluated using the following equation:


where the IDcorsfor an N=n×npixel image is defined in:


Here, the notations ncband ncwfor the cover image and nsband nswfor the stego image, which are referred to the number of white (0) and black (1) pixels in the cover and stego images.

Next, we count the number of pixel correspondences, D, which is defined as the number of pixels in cover image corresponding with pixels in stego image. And then, the total pixel-wise variation Bis computed by the equation:


where BER denotes the bit error rate.

Finally, the fidelity of two images expressed in the form of a percentage is quantified by equation:


As can be found from Table 2, four frequently-used cover images are used here as examples, when the value of the noise densities is set to 0.1. The average value of QIFM values is around 91, which is considered that the extracted text have a good fidelity.

Stego imageQIFM values of two texts

Table 2.

QIFM values of the extracted text and their original secret text.

5.3 Circuit complexity

The circuit complexity depends on the number of the elementary quantum gates. Thus, we take C-NOTgate as the basic unit. For our proposed scheme, the circuit complexity consists of two parts: embedding and extracting. In embedding part, the scrambling circuit complexity is 7. The embedding circuit is composed of eight QE circuits with three control qubits and eight embedding blocks with one control qubit. As the literature [42] pointed out, only 4k82-C-NOTgates are needed to construct one k-C-NOTgate. Again, one SWAP gate is equivalent to three C-NOTgates. The complexity of embedding circuit is:


In extracting part, the complexity of descrambling circuit is 7, and the extracting circuit is consist of eight QE circuits with three control qubits and eight extracting blocks with one control qubit. The complexity of extracting circuit is:


Therefore, the circuit complexity of the proposed scheme is 640n+5262, i.e., On.


6. Conclusion

This chapter proposes a new grayscale image steganography scheme which using NEQR representation to represent a 2n×2ncover image and presenting an improved representation of quantum text to store secret text with 2n1+n2symbols. The Gray code of the highest three qubits of the gray value of the cover image is used as a judgment condition in embedded procedure. The acquisition of secret text is a process of extracting and reorganizing and inversely scrambling eight bit-planes, and it is worth mentioning that the process is absolutely blind. In addition, simulation results about the visibility quality and robustness of the proposed scheme are provided. And the circuit complexity is analyzed at last.


This work is supported by the National Key R&D Plan under Grant No. 2018YFC1200200 and 2018YFC1200205, National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant No. 61463016 and “Science and technology innovation action plan” of Shanghai in 2017 under Grant No. 17510740300.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2019 The Author(s). Licensee IntechOpen. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

How to cite and reference

Link to this chapter Copy to clipboard

Cite this chapter Copy to clipboard

Ri-Gui Zhou and Jia Luo (May 22nd 2019). A Novel Quantum Steganography Scheme Based on ASCII, Advances in Quantum Communication and Information, Francisco Bulnes, Vasilios N. Stavrou, Oleg Morozov and Anton V. Bourdine, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.86413. Available from:

chapter statistics

392total chapter downloads

More statistics for editors and authors

Login to your personal dashboard for more detailed statistics on your publications.

Access personal reporting

Related Content

This Book

Next chapter

Quantum Algorithms for Fluid Simulations

By René Steijl

Related Book

First chapter

Introductory Chapter: Frontiers and Future Developments of the Complex Analysis

By Francisco Bulnes

We are IntechOpen, the world's leading publisher of Open Access books. Built by scientists, for scientists. Our readership spans scientists, professors, researchers, librarians, and students, as well as business professionals. We share our knowledge and peer-reveiwed research papers with libraries, scientific and engineering societies, and also work with corporate R&D departments and government entities.

More About Us