Splicebuster: a new blind image splicing detector
Davide Cozzolino, Giovanni Poggi, Luisa Verdoliva
DIETI, University Federico II of Naples, Italy
Abstract—We propose a new feature-based algorithm to detect
image splicings without any prior information. Local features are
computed from the co-occurrence of image residuals and used to
extract synthetic feature parameters. Splicing and host images are
assumed to be characterized by different parameters. These are
learned by the image itself through the expectation-maximization
algorithm together with the segmentation in genuine and spliced
parts. A supervised version of the algorithm is also proposed.
Preliminary results on a wide range of test images are very en-
couraging, showing that a limited-size, but meaningful, learning
set may be sufﬁcient for reliable splicing localization.
Index Terms—Image forensics, forgery detection and localiza-
tion, local image descriptors, blind algorithm.
Images and videos account already for the biggest share
of trafﬁc and storage space over the internet, and this trend
is only going to increase in the near future. As manipulating
multimedia content becomes ever more widespread and easy,
the interest for digital image forensics is rapidly growing.
Image forensic tools must address a wide variety of speciﬁc
goals, form establishing the authenticity of an image, to dis-
covering the presence of a manipulation, its type, its location,
and so on. Indeed, many different forms of manipulation exist
like copy-moving parts of an image, covering objects through
inpainting, retouching details, or inserting material taken from
a different source (splicing). Such diverse scenarios call for
speciﬁc approaches and techniques. For example, to ﬁnd copy-
moves one looks for near-duplicates in the image, while to
ﬁnd a splicing one must discovery anomalies with respect to
a typical behavior. These anomalies may be macroscopic, re-
lated to illumination or perspective inconsistencies, but skilled
attackers avoid easily these errors. To detect accurate forgeries,
statistical signal analysis tools are necessary.
In the last decade, many techniques have been proposed
for splicing detection and localization, which can be classiﬁed
based on the amount of prior information they rely upon. When
either the host camera or an arbitrary number of images taken
from it are available, one can estimate the so-called camera
ﬁngerprint, or photo-response non-uniformity noise (PRNU)
pattern . Being unique for any camera sensor, it allows to
reliably identify the source camera, and also to detect and
localize possible manipulations ,  provided they are not
A step below in this prior information scale, one can know
or estimate the color ﬁlter array (CFA) and the interpolation
ﬁlter characterizing the camera model. Given these pieces of
information, one can detect transitions between original and
spliced regions, as already suggested back in 2005 . Several
effective algorithms are based on this simple idea, like  and
Fig. 1: Splicebuster working on a toy example. Local features
extracted from the input image (left) are used to learn a model
with two classes, associated with genuine and forged areas.
The output heat map (right) indicates clearly a splicing in
correspondence with the ghost.
. In alternative, detection and localization may rely on the
different intensity and properties of the noise introduced in the
image by different camera sensors , .
A different form of prior information concerns the process-
ing history of host image and splicing. In particular, assuming
the images are always saved in compressed JPEG format,
performing a splicing induces a double JPEG compression
which leaves clear traces in the DCT coefﬁcients of image
blocks. Therefore, several methods have been proposed, like
,  or , which exploit the statistical distribution of
All the above techniques rely on some strong and very
speciﬁc hypothesis, which are not always met in practice. A
more general approach consists in assuming that the different
in-camera processing chain or out-camera processing history
of host and splicing give rise to subtle differences in the high-
pass content of the image. Whatever their origin, these patterns
can be captured by some suitable features and classiﬁed by
machine learning. In this context, the research focuses on the
deﬁnition of the most expressive local features that account
for such subtle differences. A ﬁrst step in this direction dates
back to 2004, with the model proposed in . However, a
major impulse comes only some years later with , where
features based on both ﬁrst-order and higher-order statistics of
DCT coefﬁcients are used, providing a performance gap with
respect to the previous state of the art. In  the approach
is extended to include also wavelet-based features, while 
resorts to a noncausal Markov model. A local feature proposed
originally for steganalysis , based on the co-occurrence of
image residuals, is used in  for splicing detection with
excellent results. In , the same features are used, but there
is a switch from the machine learning paradigm to model based
detection. Assuming that only genuine images are available,
a model is learned for the host camera and used to detect
data departing from the model. This latter work, therefore,
borders the anomaly detection ﬁeld, and also the camera model
identiﬁcation problem , .
Methods based on machine learning and feature modeling,
though more general than the previous ones, have themselves a
serious handicap, the need for a large training set. Sometimes,
this set is simply not available. One may be given a single
image and urged to decide whether it is pristine or forged, and
which part of it has been manipulated. Barring fortunate cases,
like copy-moves or double JPEG compression, this “blind”
forgery detection problem may be very challenging.
In this paper we propose a new algorithm for the blind
detection and localization of forgeries, nicknamed splicebuster.
No prior knowledge is available on the host camera, on
the splicing, or on their processing history. We use the co-
occurrence based features proposed in  and, as in ,
follow an anomaly detection approach, learning a model for
the features based on the very same image under analysis.
In a ﬁrst supervised scenario, the user is required to select a
tentative training set to learn the model parameters, while in
the unsupervised scenario, segmentation and model learning
are pursued jointly by means of the expectation-maximization
(EM) algorithm. Experimental results show that, despite the
obvious loss of reliability due to the lack of an adequate
training set, a very good performance can be obtained in most
cases of interest.
II. PROPOSED METHOD
To localize possible forgeries in the image we start from
the approach proposed in , which is based on three major
•deﬁning an expressive feature that captures the traces left
locally by in-camera processing;
•computing synthetic feature parameters (mean vector and
covariance matrix) for the class of images under test,
based on a suitable training set;
•using these statistics to discover where the features com-
puted locally depart from the model, pointing to some
possible image manipulation.
With respect to this paradigm, we have the major additional
problem that no training set is available. A single image is
given with no prior information. Still, we want to follow the
same approach as before, computing model parameters and
testing model ﬁtting. This raises two distinct problems: i) even
if an oracle told us which part of the image is pristine, the data
available for training may be too scarce for reliable decision,
and ii) we have no oracle, actually, so we must localize the
forgery and estimate the parameters of interest at the same
time. Indeed, if ideal single-image training does not provide
reliable results, the whole approach is unsuitable for this task,
no matter what we do. However, in Section 3, we will provide
experimental evidence that single-image training is sufﬁcient
in most cases. Turning to the second issue, we will consider
two scenarios, a supervised case, in which the user acts as
an oracle, and an unsupervised case, where an EM-based
procedure is used for simultaneous parameter estimation and
image segmentation. These cases are explored in the following
after describing the proposed feature.
A. Co-occurrence based local feature
Feature extraction is based on three main steps 
1) computation of residuals through high-pass ﬁltering;
2) quantization of the residuals;
3) computation of a histogram of co-occurrences.
The ﬁnal histogram is the feature vector associated with the
whole image, which can be used for classiﬁcation. To compute
the residual image we use a linear high-pass ﬁlter of the third
order, which assured us a good performance for both forgery
detection ,  and camera identiﬁcation , deﬁned as
rij =xi,j−1−3xi,j + 3 xi,j+1 −xi,j +2 (1)
where xand rare origin and residual images, and i, j indicate
spatial coordinates. The next step is to compute residual co-
occurrences. To this end, residuals must be ﬁrst quantized,
using a very small number of bins to obtain a limited feature
length. Therefore, we perform quantization and truncation as:
brij = truncT(round(rij /q)) (2)
with qthe quantization step and Tthe truncation value. We
compute co-occurrence on four pixels in a row, that is
C(k0, k1, k2, k3) =
I(bri,j =k0,bri+1,j =k1,bri+2,j =k2,bri+3,j =k3)
where I(A)is the indicator function of event A, equal to 1 if
Aholds and 0 otherwise. The homologous column-wise co-
occurrences are pooled with the above based on symmetry
considerations. Unlike in , we pass the normalized his-
tograms through a square-root non-linearity, to obtain a ﬁnal
feature with unitary L2 norm. In fact, in various contexts, such
as texture classiﬁcation and image categorization, histogram
comparison is performed by measures such as χ2or Hellinger
that are found to work better than the Euclidean distance.
After square rooting, the Euclidean distance between features
is equivalent to do the Hellinger distance between the original
B. Supervised scenario
In this case, the user is assumed to take an active role
in the process. She is required to select a bounding box,
including the possible forgery, that will be subject to the
analysis, while the rest of the image is used as training set
(see Fig.1 for example). The analysis is carried out in sliding-
window modality , using blocks of size W×W, large
enough to extract a meaningful feature, that is, the normalized
histogram of co-occurrences, h. The Nblocks taken from
the training area are used to estimate in advance mean and
0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1
[0.9479 ; 0.9595 ; 0.9666]
0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1
[0.9037 ; 0.9455 ; 0.9634]
0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1
[0.8120 ; 0.9323 ; 0.9626]
0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1
[0.5536 ; 0.7326 ; 0.9363]
Fig. 2: Performance as a function of the training set size M: from left to right, M=50, M=10, M=5, M=1. For each FPR
level, the bar ranges from the worst to the best TPR over the training sets. In parentheses, the worst, median and best AUC.
covariance of the feature vector
Then, for each block of the test area, the associated feature h0
is extracted, and its Mahalanobis distance w.r.t. the reference
feature µis computed
Large distances indicate blocks that deviate signiﬁcantly from
the model. In the output map provided to the user, each
block is given a color associated with the computed distance.
Eventually, the user decides based on the visual inspection of
the map (see again Fig.1).
Note that the user may repeat the process several times with
different bounding boxes, implying that a meaningful analysis
can be conducted even in the absence of any initial guess of
the presence and location of a forgery.
C. Unsupervised scenario
In this case, after the feature extraction phase, carried out
on the whole image with unit stride, we rely on an automatic
algorithm to jointly compute the model parameters and the
two-class image segmentation. Although there are many tools
available for this task, for the time being, we resort to a simple
As input, we need the mixture model of the data, namely,
the number of classes, their probabilities, π0, π1, . . ., and the
probability model of each class. For us, the number of classes
is always ﬁxed to two, corresponding to the genuine area of
the image (hypothesis H0) and the tampered area (hypothesis
H1). We will consider two cases for the class models
1) both classes are modeled as multivariate Gaussian
p(h) = π0N(h|µ0,Σ0) + π1N(h|µ1,Σ1)
2) class H0 is modeled as Gaussian, while class H1 is
modeled as Uniform over the feature domain Ω,
p(h) = π0N(h|µ0,Σ0) + π1α1I(Ω)
We note explicitly that the Gaussian model is only a handy
simpliﬁcation, lacking more precise information on the feature
The ﬁrst model is conceived for the case when the forged
area is relatively large w.r.t. the whole image. Therefore, the
two classes have the same dignity, and can be expected to
emerge easily through the EM clustering. The block-wise
decision statistic is the ratio between the two Mahalanobis
When the forged region is very small, instead, the intra-class
variability, mostly due to image content (e.g., ﬂat vs. textured
areas) may become dominant w.r.t. inter-class differences,
leading to wrong results. Therefore, we consider the Gaussian-
Uniform model, which can be expected to deal better with
these situations, and in fact has been often considered to
account for the presence of outliers, e.g., . Note that, in this
case, the decision test reduces to comparing the Mahalanobis
distance from the Gaussian model with a threshold λas
already done in .
We do not choose between these two models, leaving the
ﬁnal say to the experimental analysis.
III. EXP ER IM EN TS
We present now a number of experiments which provide
insight into the potential of the blind techniques proposed here
There is wide variety of manipulations of possible interest, and
we have shown in  that the co-occurrence based feature
allows one to detect and localize very well most of them.
Here we focus only on splicing from other cameras and use
6 cameras of 6 different models and 4 manufacturers: Canon
EOS 450D, Canon IXUS 95IS, Nikon D200, Nikon Coolpix
S5100, Digimax 301, Sony DSC S780. For each camera we
have a large number of images, which are cropped to size
768×1024 to speed-up processing.
Considering the limited training data available in this case,
we must reduce as much as possible the feature length, so as
to allow reliable estimates. Therefore, the truncation parameter
is set to T=1, implying only three quantization levels for
the residual, including 0. To balance losses, a relatively large
quantization step, q=2 is used. Thanks to symmetries, the ﬁnal
feature has length 50, which is further reduced to 25 through
PCA. The block size is 128×128, as a good compromise
0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1
Fig. 3: Sample ROCs (left) obtained with single-image training
and corresponding training images (right).
between accuracy and resolution. Since the results of the
iterative EM algorithm depend strongly on the initialization
we run it 30 times with different random initial parameters,
selecting eventually the outcome for which the data exhibit the
highest likelihood. Note that saturated and very dark areas tend
to cause false alarms, and are hence excluded in this analysis.
A. Dependence on training set size and quality
Before showing results in the blind context, we carry out
an experiment to study how results depend on the size and
quality of the training set. We select a single camera as our
host, and all the others as source of spliced material. The
feature parameters for the host camera are estimated on a
certain number Mof training images. Then we test an equal
number of genuine and fake blocks, deciding on their nature
based on how their associated features ﬁt with the camera
model. Performance is measured in terms of true positive rate
(TPR) vs. false positive rate (FPR). Notice that a very similar
experiment was presented in , using always M=200. In
Fig.2 we show the results obtained for M= 50, 10, 5 and
1, the latter amounting to single-image training. Since results
may depend very much on the speciﬁc training images chosen,
especially when just a few of them are used, the experiment is
repeated several times with random instances of the training
set, 200 times for the case M=1. In the ﬁgure, for each value
of FPR, we show a bar going from the worst to the best TPR.
The solid curve corresponds to median values.
It is clear that, with a large training set, say, 50 images,
results are very good and depend very weakly on the speciﬁc
set of images. With smaller sizes, 10 or 5, results are still
generally good but present a larger variability. Going down to
M=1, the dependence on the single training image becomes
very strong. It is worth underlining, however, that for some
instances of the single-image training the performance is quite
good, not far from that of the 50-image case.
Fig.3 sheds some light on the nature of the good and bad
training images. As could be expected, bad training images
(red/magenta curves and boxes) are characterized by low
contrast and limited variety of textures, sometimes highly
unusual. On the contrary, good training images (green/blue
curves and boxes) are quite varied, presenting bright and dark
areas, with both textures and smooth contents. Considering
that with such images performance is so good, one may argue
Fig. 4: Results for some selected examples. Top to bottom:
forged images, maps obtained with the unsupervised method
(GG and GU mixtures), and the supervised method.
that size is not really a limiting factor (at this level) provided
sufﬁcient variety is guaranteed. In addition, turning to our
blind scenario, the training image is automatically well ﬁt to
the test, since most textures can be expected to be present in
B. Analysis in controlled conditions
To assess the performance of splicebuster we use visual
inspection of results for some images with known splicing. In
Fig.4 we show three selected examples, where the spliced area
is highlighted, together with the maps provided by the variants
of our method, that is, the unsupervised method with the two-
Gaussian (GG) and Gaussian-Uniform (GU) mixture models
(middle rows), and the supervised method (last row). The GU
mixture provides always good results, while the GG mixture
leads to some false alarms, a behavior observed also more in
general. The supervised method is always very accurate. Note
that the result of the unsupervised case can be used as a guide
for the selection of the areas to investigate in more depth with
the supervised approach.
C. Comparison with the state of the art
We now consider some comparisons with state of the
art approaches. We used the 180 images coming from the
Columbia Dataset1. Images are all in uncompressed formats
with size from 757 ×568 to 1152 ×768. Spliced images were
created using Adobe Photoshop with material coming from
exactly two cameras, and no post processing was performed
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
Proposal (GU mixture)
Popescu and Farid 
Lyu et al. 
Bianchi and Piva (A−DJPG) 
Bianchi and Piva (NA−DJPG) 
Fig. 5: Pixel-level ROCs on Columbia database.
. We implemented the approaches of Popescu and Farid
 based on CFA artifacts, and Lyu et al.  exploiting noise
level inconsistencies. The code for the method of Bianchi and
Piva  based on double JPEG compression was available on-
line. Fig.5 shows ROCs obtained at pixel level and it can be
seen that splicebuster performs much better than all references.
We also considered more realistic scenarios by using images
publicly available on the net, where no information is provided
about the nature of the splicings, hence it is possible that
the images have undergone some post-processing operations.
The ﬁrst three are taken from the training set of the ﬁrst
IEEE Image Forensics Challenge2, and come with a ground
truth. The following four come from the test set of the same
challenge, and the last two are drawn from the Worth1000
site3. In both cases no ground truth is available.
In Fig.6 next to each image, we show the heat maps obtained
by the reference methods and the ones of the proposed ap-
proach in unsupervised (GU mixture) and supervised modality.
In the latter case, we tested various bounding boxes. The
visual inspection of the heat maps conﬁrms the very good
performance of splicebuster, except for some false alarms in
the unsupervised case (dark blue areas correspond to saturated
or very dark image regions and are not considered at all).
Only in some cases, instead, the reference techniques provide
sensible results, and the maps are typically less readable than
those of the proposed method.
IV. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK
We proposed a new blind splicing detector. Results are
deﬁnitely encouraging, especially if compared with reference
methods. Still, there is much work ahead. Key parameters
(like αin the GU mixture) are selected heuristically, for the
time being. Likewise, the conversion from heat map to binary
decision is still to perform. A major effort is then required
to set up a sensible paradigm for objective performance
assessment, and robustness to JPEG compression and other
forms of post-processing should be explored.
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Fig. 6: Results of reference and proposed algorithms on some images available on the net. From left to right: forged image,
heat maps obtained with the method of Popescu and Farid , Lyu et al. , Bianchi and Piva , splicebuster in unsupervised
(GU mixture) and supervised modality.