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Digital Image Watermarking: An Overview


Abstract and Figures

Digital data can be easily copied, modified and forgeries be created by anyone having a computer. Most prone to such malicious attacks are the digital images published in the Internet. Digital Watermarking can be used as a tool for discovering unauthorized data reuse and also for copyright protection. Digital Watermarking is the technique of embedding some identification information known as watermark into the digital data by its owner. On embedding or data hiding a watermarked data is generated. Large numbers of watermarking schemes are currently available. An acceptable Watermarking must possess certain qualities as robustness and imperceptibility. The recent research and developments in the field of Watermarking is reviewed and is subjected to a detailed study in this paper. The current status and issues are then discussed to give direction to future works.
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Digital Image Watermarking: An Overview
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Digital Image Watermarking: An Overview
Jobin Abraham
Research Scholar
M.G University, Kottayam
Digital data can be easily copied, modified and forgeries be created by anyone having a computer. Most
prone to such malicious attacks are the digital images published in the Internet. Digital Watermarking can be used as
a tool for discovering unauthorized data reuse and also for copyright protection.
Digital Watermarking is the technique of embedding some identification information known as watermark into the
digital data by its owner. On embedding or data hiding a watermarked data is generated. Large numbers of
watermarking schemes are currently available. An acceptable Watermarking must possess certain qualities as
robustness and imperceptibility.
The recent research and developments in the field of Watermarking is reviewed and is subjected to a detailed study
in this paper. The current status and issues are then discussed to give direction to future works.
Keywords: digital watermarking, robust, image watermarking techniques, features, applications.
1. Introduction
Digital data storage has gained popularity over the analog counterparts for information storage and handling.
Digital techniques are far superior to analog counterparts. However, a difficulty faced in digital world is that the
manipulation and duplication of digitalized information is very easy. For instance, anyone who has a computer
system can easily create forgeries and then redistribute the images and other data’s through the Internet [1]. Suitable
techniques must be developed and made available to protect the data from unauthorized modifications and illegal
Digital watermarking is proposed as a method for protecting the ownership rights of digitalized data. Digital
watermarking integrates or embeds some information as the owner name or logo in to a digital media. Thus
watermark information will serve as the identification mark of its owner. With the aid of this embedded watermark
whenever we suspect the data or an image is illegally edited and copied it is possible to produce enough evidence to
prove the ownership.
1.1 History
Watermarking as technique for copyright protection evolved with the discovery of paper. The word
Watermarking is coined from the conventional use of placing a visible watermark on paper. It was used as a method
against counterfeiting books and currency notes.
The origin of data hiding or invisible watermarking may be traced to the age of ancient Greeks who
transferred their information after modifying the contents in a text by swapping the positions of alphabets. The
Greeks thus were able to send secret information across the border without getting noticed. In Rome the heads of
slaves were shaven and a message is tattooed. When the hairs are fully grown they are send to the destinations
through the enemy lines.
By 18th century Watermarking began to be used as anti-counterfeiting measure on money and other
documents. The first patent in Watermarking was filed by Emil Hembrooke in 1954, titled “Identification of Sound
and like Signals”. In early 1980s, Muzak Corporation used to watermark analog audio signal to identify their music.
Their system used a notch filter to block the audio signal at 1 KHz for a varying duration to encode identification
information using Morse code. About 1995, interest in digital Watermarking began to mushroom.
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1.2 Steganography vs. Watermarking
Steganography is a sub discipline of cryptography and means data hiding. Cryptography is about
maintaining the secrecy of the information by encoding them. This forbids from being read by any unauthorized
person. Steganography attempts to maintain the information secrecy by not getting noticed also at the same time.
Steganography in Greek means covered writing or secret writing. In Steganography information is hidden in a
harmless source, known as cover media, in a way that it is not known to others. The existence of the information
thus goes unnoticed.
Watermarking integrates information into a data without affecting its actual usage. Watermarking mostly
uses same principles and techniques as Steganography for data insertion and hiding in a host media. However,
information hiding as done in Steganography is many way different from cryptography where the chief concern is
protecting the message content. Table 1 shows a comparison between the three.
Method Adopted
Data is encrypted using a
secret key.
Protects the contents in point to
point communication.
Maintains the message
Uses a cover media to
hide the data.
Existence of a message is kept
as secret.
Hides actual messages
from unauthorized
Inserts an unique owners
identification mark.
Copyright Protection,
Do not protect the
content; the ownership
rights could be
Table. 1 A Comparison of watermarking vs. others
1.3 Uses of Watermarking
Protecting the digital data in our databases or internet from unauthorized reuse is tedious.. Practically, it
may not be possible to stop the illegal data modification or copy generation. Using an embedded watermark in the
source data the ownership rights can be established beyond doubt.
Watermarking makes the duplications identifiable and thus reuse becomes almost impossible. For instance
the currency notes are watermarked by the government as proof for their authenticity. This makes forgeries difficult
and identifiable from the original. Another popular use of Watermarking is for tamper proofing. The content of the
watermarked data is verifiable and can discover any manipulations and unacceptable modifications if any.
Watermarking is now possible for any digital media as: text, audio, video or images. Digital watermarking is
very much useful for varied application as: Proof of ownership, Means of tamper proofing, Labeling for user
awareness, Covert communication, Broadcast Monitoring, device identification and controlled access.
2. Digital Image Watermarking
In Digital Image Watermarking the watermark signal is embedded into a source image that is to be protected
against abuses. Watermark can be a string of bits representing a text or owners name or an image such as a
trademark symbol or logo.
2.1 Desirable features of Watermarking System
A Watermarking process should introduce only small amount of noise or distortions while embedding the
watermark. Losses should be minimal. Too much of distortions will degrade the usability of the digital data. Most of
the Watermarking systems in the literature are not lossless. Most desirable features[2] of recent watermarking
system are:
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By robust it means the watermarked image is able to survive manipulations and other attacks.
Watermarking must also withstand severe signal processing attacks [3] as compressing or scaling.
Robustness is the ability of the watermarked signal to resist the attacks or distortions introduced by
malicious data processing. This feature makes watermarked images acceptable for legal purpose.
A watermark, in fact has the effect of adding noise. However, the watermark must not distract the viewer
from the image itself. The modifications introduced on watermark insertion should be below the perceptible
threshold. After embedding, the watermarked image must be visibly appealing and identical to the original
media. A watermark is called imperceptible if the original signal and marked signal is indistinguishable.
Reversibility is a measure of the extent to which watermark signal removal is possible from the
watermarked media. In certain applications as forensic or medical, the watermark removal is desirable once
the purpose is served. After authentication the image can be restored to their original form by removing the
Lossless embedding
The embedding process usually transforms the images to some domain as cosine transform or wavelet
transform for adding the watermark signal. Distortions are normally introduced as an after effect of this
conversion. A good watermarking system should be lossless, in that it should not distort the original
contents or in other words should not affect the functionality of the media.
Watermarks must exist undetectable. Even by use of known methods or algorithms the watermark removal
should not possible to an intruder. Security means that even after the presence of the watermark is known to
a malicious attacker it must not be possible for them to remove the same from the host media.
2.2 Classifications of Watermarking System
Watermarking systems are classified based on the method used for watermarking and also on certain
features as visibility and strength of the watermark in the embedded media. The application scenario for which the
watermarking is used has a significant say over the choice of the method used. Watermarking systems that are
currently in use can be classified as follows
Visible or Invisible
This classification is based on the perceptibility of the hidden watermark in the host media. Visible
Watermarking techniques provide means for overt assertion of ownership rights. Whereas, Invisible watermarks are
imperceptible to human eyes and hence provides covert protection of rights.
Fragile or Robust
Robust watermarks are able to withstand degradations or attacks on watermarked images. Fragile watermarking
however is broken or lost when they are a subject to attacks. The application for which Fragile and Robust
watermarking used differs. A robust watermark is often used for the cases where copyright or ownership rights are
to be ascertained.
Fragile watermarks breaks on modifications. Hence these methods are well suited for content authentication or
tamper proofing [4]. Another sub-category is semi-fragile watermarking. Semi-fragile watermarking is designed to
break under any changes that exceed a threshold specified by the user. In other words, a semi-fragile watermarking
scheme allows some amount of modifications upon the original content and breaks beyond a limit permitted by its
Blind or Non-blind
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At the stage of detection or watermark retrieval some techniques requires the original signal as well. The
watermarked signal is then compared with the original signal to generate the watermark. Based on the need for
original signal at the time of retrieval process, the watermarking schemes can be classified as Non-blind or Blind.
Blind schemes [5] require only the algorithm for decoding and the watermarked image in detection phase. Whereas,
a Non-blind technique need the original signal as one of the input to complete the detection process.
3. Watermarking Process
3.1 Watermarking System
A Watermarking system comprises two distinct stages: Embedding and Detection. Watermark embedding
needs an algorithm and a unique watermark that is encoded into the host media by the algorithm. The figure.1 shows
the embedding process. The embedding algorithm E accepts the watermark w and embeds this in the image I to
create the watermarked signal I’.
The decoding section retrieves the watermark from the watermarked signal when it is required to of the
owner to prove his ownership rights. Figure 2 illustrates the decoding operation.
The decoding algorithm retrieves the watermark w from I’. When decoding, there are techniques that do need the
original image and others that do not need original images. The above is a blind watermarking technique that the
original image to generate watermark w.
3.2 Watermarking Techniques
Watermark embedding can be considered as superposition of the watermark signal on the original image.
Digital Image Watermarking is the process of embedding some information w in to an image x to form a
watermarked image, say x´.
x´ = E( x , w )
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The original image is referred to as the host image/data into which the watermark w is hidden
imperceptibly. A variety of algorithms are used for information integration. Watermarking methods are broadly
classified as[6]:
Spatial domain method
Transform domain methods
In spatial domain watermark integration is done by modulating the intensity of certain pixels from the host
image. The watermark is embedded to the least significant bit (LSB) of the original image. While some methods
uses DCT[7] or DWT [10] transforms domains for selecting the coefficients whose magnitude is then changed.
Spatial domain methods are less complex; however they are easier targets to attacks[7].
Transform domain watermarking methods uses transforms as DCT (Discrete Cosine Transform), DFT (Discrete
Fourier Transform) or DWT (Discrete Wavelet Transform). Figure.3 shows how a Watermarked image is generated.
Transform domain watermarking methods have gained popularity as they are more robust to attacks. This is
attributable to the fact that when image is inverse wavelet transformed the watermark w is distributed irregularly
over the entire host image thus making the watermark removal almost impossible for attackers.
4. Applications of Digital Image Watermarking
The increased interest in Watermarking is accelerated by the copyright concerns that is now a necessacity with
the advancement of computer technology and wide use of Internet. Watermarking is becoming a lot more popular
and has applications [1][9] in many areas as:
Copyright Protection
Copyright protection is the most prominent application of Watermarking. Who did first is the issue that is
addressed by this application. In the internet age there is always the risk of published digital data be stolen and
reused without obtaining any legal permission. Many a times information is tampered or modified to the levels that
are unacceptable. In such cases of misuse the original creator of the document could establish his ownership rights.
Content Authentication
Content Authentication assures the data integrity. Digital images may be subjected to editing or removal of certain
pixels areas. There may not be even any visible difference between the original and manipulated image in first sight
to a viewer. However small these modifications or manipulations are the integrity of the data should be verifiable.
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Fingerprinting permits us to trace the source of illegal copy generation whenever is reported. When licensed
documents are distributed they are uniquely watermarked so that the individual buyer of the copy is identifiable.
This shall enable us to trace the source of illegal copy distribution.
Captioning or labeling permits the creator of the digital data to add his identification marks or additional
information as authors name, date, location, and version number etc. For instance a publisher of an image in Internet
can label them using his contact number for securing rights for higher resolution copy of the same image. Here the
watermark is visible and carries a piece of information for its viewers.
Covert communication
A hidden piece of information can be transmitted in a host media to a destination without being noticed. This is
similar to Steganography where the information is hidden in a cover media. The watermark must be imperceptible to
the eyes of the viewer. If the effects of watermarking are too strong it will attract the attention of attacker who may
eventually succeed in retrieving the embedded information.
Broadcasting Monitoring
Production cost of broadcasting material such as news or shows are enormous. Therefore, production companies
are very much concerned in protecting their videos from illegal reuses and other rebroadcasting activities. When
television signals are broadcast, they contain watermarked video so as to enable the identification of rebroadcasts.
Watermark information could also be useful in linking a piece of document to its database for finding the
similar versions or continuation of the same program. Another proposed usage is, watermark could serve in
verifying whether the video is broadcast in full or as agreed while securing the telecast rights.
5. Threats and Challenges
Digital data can be easily copied, edited and transferred. The use of Watermarking does not ensure that our
digital data is protected from being copied and edited. However, watermarking permits us to prove the copyright of
the authors and also in protecting the authenticity.
Any operation, intentional or unintentional, upon the watermarked data that impairs the watermark can be called as
an Attack[3]. Digital Images are subject to varied attacks as cropping, scaling, rotating, scaling, compression and
noise. Most of the proposed conventional watermarks in literature are easily broken on attacks or on multiple
attacks. Robustness to attacks is thus the most desired feature if the ownership right has to be established in the
court. The watermarks are weakened by signal processing as signal enhancement or D/A and A/D conversion.
Many watermarks are unable to withstand strong lossy compression. Content-based watermarking approach that
uses geometric wrapping to embed watermarks proposed in [11] offers high robustness against lossy compressions
to some extent. Intentional attacks as removal of watermarks are possible if an attacker procures many copies of
differently watermarked images and tries by averaging all copies. An attacker may also attempt to remove the
watermark by trying to estimate the original image.
Another possible attack that can create ambiguity is, when an attacker re-watermarks the image using his logo.
The attacker will be able to generate his watermark from the watermarked data and can claim to be the real owner.
6. Conclusion
In recent years watermarking has emerged as a trustable tool for proving the ownership rights and authenticity
of digital documents. Digital watermarks could now be inserted into any digital media in a way they are
imperceptible to human eyes but are detectable only to owners computer algorithm for the retrieval of watermark.
Digital Watermarking has close links with Steganography. It is many times assumed that cryptographic
techniques like encryption or techniques as time stamping alone will ensure the secure authentication of data. Digital
Watermarking is presented as a technique for hiding information in any digital media for the purpose of ownership
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identification. Watermarking techniques mostly uses the principles of signal processing and sometimes even uses
the cryptographic techniques for data hiding.
Most sought after feature of watermarking system is the ability to withstand attacks. The watermark should be
retained in the host image even after the source image is subjected to repeated modifications or manipulations.
Features as imperceptibility, robustness and reversibility are also significant while accessing the quality of a
Watermarking System.
[1] Ingemar J.Cox and matt L Miller ,”The first 50 years of Electronic Watermarking”, EURASIP Journal of Applied Signal
Processing, 126-132, 2002.
[2] Jen Bang Feng, “Reversible watermarking: Current Status and Key Issues”, International Journal of Network Security, Vol 2,
PP161-171, May 2006
[3] S. Voloshynovskiy, S.Pereira, T.Pun , “ Attacks on Digital Watermarks: Classification, Estimation based Attacks and
Benchmarks”, IEEE Communications Magazine, Vol.39, pp115-126, 2001.
[4] P. Meenakshi Devi , M. Venkatesan and K. Duraiswamy, “A Fragile Watermarking scheme for Image Authentication with
Tamper Localization Using Integer Wavelet transform” , Journal of Computer Science 5(11) PP831-837, 2009.
[5] Dr. M.A Dorairangaswamy, “A Novel Invisible and Blind Watermarking Scheme for copyright protection of Digital
Images”, International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, Vol.9, No.4, PP71-78, Nov 2009.
[6] Kamran Hameed, Adeel Mumtaz and S.A.M Gilani, “Digital image Watermarking in the wavelet transform domain”, World
Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology 13 2006.
[7] Sami Baba, Lala Krekor, Thawar Arif and Zyad Shaaban, “Watermarking Scheme for copyright protection of digital
images”, IJCSNS International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, Vol.9, No.4, PP1-4, April 2009.
[8] Mona M El-Ghoneimy, “Comparison between two Watermarking Algorithms using DCT Coefficient, and LSB Replacement
”, Journal of Theoretical and Applied Information Technology, PPP132-139, 2005
[9] Patrick Lam, Orion Winkelmeyer, ” Watermarking Technologies-Analysis and Design Report ”, 2005
[10] Kamran Hameed, Adeel Mumtaz and S.A.M Gilani, “Digital image Watermarking in the wavelet transform domain”,
World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology 13 2006.
[11] Dima Profrock,Mathias Schlauweg, Erika Muller, “Content-Based Watermarking by Geometric Wrapping and Feature-
Based Image Segmentation” PP 572-581, SITIS 2006
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Copyright protection of digital images received increasing attention in the last decade due to massive digital artwork distribution via internet, so digital watermarking was a potential solution to such problem. Invisible watermarking scheme has been applied in frequency domain, to embed a logo image inside a large original image. The bits of the logo image are embedded in random color components of the original image, as well as in random positions in each selected block, these positions are AC coefficients of the DCT matrix. The randomness are obtained from a Non-Linear Feedback Shift Register (NLFSR) pseudorandom bit generator that determines in which color component this logo image bits will embed, as well, the block number for hiding each bit has been chosen according to a (semi-random) function proposed in this work.
Full-text available
Watermarking is a potential method for protection of ownership rights on digital audio, image, and video data. Benchmarks are used to evaluate the performance of different watermarking algorithms. For image watermarking, the Stirmark package is the most popular benchmark, and the best current algorithms perform well against it. However, results obtained by the Stirmark benchmark have to be handled carefully since Stirmark does not properly model the watermarking process and consequently is limited in its potential for impairing sophisticated image watermarking schemes. In this context, the goal of this article is threefold. First, we give an overview of the current attacking methods. Second, we describe attacks exploiting knowledge about the statistics of the original data and the embedded watermark. We propose a stochastic formulation of estimation-based attacks. Such attacks consist of two main stages: watermark estimation, exploitation of the estimated watermark to trick watermark detection or create ownership ambiguity. The full strength of estimation-based attacks can be achieved by introducing additional noise, where the attacker tries to combine the estimated watermark and the additive noise to impair watermark communication as much as possible while fulfilling a quality constraint on the attacked data. With a sophisticated quality constraint it is also possible to exploit human perception: the human auditory system in case of audio watermarks and the human visual system in case of image and video watermarks. Third, we discuss the current status of image watermarking benchmarks. We present Petitcolas'(see Electronic Imaging '99: Security and Watermarking of Multimedia Content, SPIE Proc., vol.3657, San Jose, CA, 1999) Stirmark benchmarking tool. Next, we consider the benchmark proposed by the University of Geneva Vision Group that contains more deliberate attacks. Finally, we summarize the current work of the European Certimark project, whose goal is to ac- elerate efforts from a number of research groups and companies in order to produce an improved ensemble of benchmarking tools.
Nowadays, the issue of protecting copyrights of digital contents has become very much critical owing to the swift growth of the Internet. Protecting the high-value digital assets and controlling the distribution and usage of those digital assets are the tasks of the Digital Rights Management (DRM) system. Watermarking technologies are being looked upon as promising means to safe guard the copyrights of digital images. Digital watermarking conceals the secret or personal information in digital images in order to guard their copyrights. In this paper, we present a novel invisible and blind watermarking scheme for copyright protection against piracy of digital images. The proposed watermarking scheme embeds a binary watermark image invisibly into a host image for protecting its copyrights. For every 2x2 block of the host image, a watermark pixel is embedded using the proposed approach. As the proposed watermarking scheme is blind, the extraction of watermark requires only the watermarked image and it doesn't demand the original image or any of its characteristics. The experimental results have demonstrated the efficacy of the proposed watermarking scheme.
With so many forms of media taking on the digital format in recent times, it is necessary to provide security for ones valuable intellectual property (IP). Watermarking is the process of inserting information into a piece of digital data in an unperceivable manner while retaining this information's recoverability. Watermarking is at the forefront of IP protection and is constantly under development due to its proven ability to deliver security of digital data. This paper first analyzes two of the most popular domains of watermarking algorithms, namely Discrete Cosine Transform (DCT) and Discrete Wavelet Transform (DWT). Then it gives an overview analysis of Perceptual Masking, a technique that effectively utilizes the characteristics of the Human Visual System (HVS) in order to embed a watermark. Then, finally, this paper describes a technique of using Perceptual Masking in conjunction with DCT: allowing for high strength watermarks to be inserted with low image distortion. This technique evidently preserves exceptional image quality and robustness under a variety of attacks. For the purpose of this research, which later turned into a design, all three algorithms based on DCT, DWT and DCT with PM were realized in MATLAB, and the results were analyzed and compared.
Digital watermarking is a method through which we can authenticate images, videos and even texts. Watermarking functions are not only authentication, but also protection for such documents against malicious intentions to change such documents or even claim the rights of such documents. In this paper two watermarking algorithms are simulated. The first algorithm is based on the Discrete Cosine Transform (DCT)(in the frequency domain) and the second algorithm is based on the least significant bit (LSB)replacement (in the spatial domain). The results are shown and compared under different kinds of attacks.
In this work, we present a new content-based watermarking approach that uses geometric warping to embed watermarks with high robustness to strong lossy compression. The issue of hard decisions related to content-based watermarking is discussed and it is explained why hard decisions can involve bit errors in the watermark extraction process. This work contains a solution to prevent hard decisions increasing the watermark performance. Therefore, we introduce a new feature-based image segmentation process with high robustness to lossy compression. On the basis of the segmentation, a watermark approach is proposed. Further, a secret key can be used to prevent unauthorized access to the watermark. The watermark extraction process does not need the original image. Our analyses of the watermark approach confirm the expected high robustness to strong lossy compression.
Over the past few years a number of research papers about reversible watermarks has been produced. Reversible watermarking is a novel category of watermarking schemes. It not only can strengthen the ownership of the original media but also can completely recover the original media from the watermarked media. This feature is suitable for some important media, such as medical and military images, because these kinds of media do not allow any losses. The aim of this paper is to define the purpose of reversible watermarking, reflecting recent progress, and provide some research issues for the future.
Problem statement: In recent years, as digital media are gaining wider popularity, their security related issues are becoming greater concern. Method for authenticating and assuring the integrity of the image is required. Image authentication is possible by embedding a layer of the authentication signature into the digital image using a digital watermark. In some applications tamper localization is also required. Approach: In this study, we proposed a fragile image authentication system with tamper localization in wavelet domain. In this scheme, secret data to be embedded is a logo. Watermark was generated by repeating logo image so that size of watermark matches with the size of HH sub-band of integer wavelet transform. To provide additional level of security, the generated watermark was scrambled using a shared secret key. Integer Haar wavelet transform was applied to obtain wavelet coefficients. Watermark was embedded into the coefficients using odd-even mapping. Results: Experimental results demonstrated that proposed scheme detected and localized tampering at pixel level. Proposed scheme was tested with images of various sizes and tampering of various sizes. It provided good results for tamperings ranges from single pixel to a block of pixels. Conclusion: Watermarking was done in wavelet domain; conventional watermarking attacks were not possible. The resolution of tamper localization was achieved at pixel level. The watermarked image�s quality was still maintained while providing pixel-level tampering accuracy. Proposed scheme can be used in insurance, forensics departments.
Electronic watermarking can be traced back as far as 1954. The last 10 years has seen considerable interest in digital watermarking, due, in large part, to concerns about illegal piracy of copyrighted content. In this paper, we consider the following questions: is the interest warranted? What are the commercial applications of the technology? What scientific progress has been made in the last 10 years? What are the most exciting areas for research? And where might the next 10 years take us? In our opinion, the interest in watermarking is appropriate. However, we expect that copyright applications will be overshadowed by applications such as broadcast monitoring, authentication, and tracking content distributed within corporations. We further see a variety of applications emerging that add value to media, such as annotation and linking content to the Web. These latter applications may turn out to be the most compelling. Considerable progress has been made toward enabling these applications—perceptual modelling, security threats and countermeasures, and the development of a bag of tricks for efficient implementations. Further progress is needed in methods for handling geometric and temporal distortions. We expect other exciting developments to arise from research in informed watermarking.
  • Kamran Hameed
  • Adeel Mumtaz
  • S A Gilani
Kamran Hameed, Adeel Mumtaz and S.A.M Gilani, "Digital image Watermarking in the wavelet transform domain", World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology 13 2006.