Hiding information in noise: Fundamental limits of covert wireless communication

Boulat A. Bash, Dennis Goeckel, Don Towsley, Saikat Guha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


Widely deployed encryption-based security prevents unauthorized decoding, but does not ensure undetectability of communication. However, covert, or low probability of detection/intercept communication is crucial in many scenarios ranging from covert military operations and the organization of social unrest, to privacy protection for users of wireless networks. In addition, encrypted data or even just the transmission of a signal can arouse suspicion, and even the most theoretically robust encryption can often be defeated by a determined adversary using non-computational methods such as side-channel analysis. Various covert communication techniques have been developed to address these concerns, including steganography for finite-alphabet noiseless applications and spread-spectrum systems for wireless communications. After reviewing these covert communication systems, this article discusses new results on the fundamental limits of their capabilities, and provides a vision for the future of such systems as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7355562
Pages (from-to)26-31
Number of pages6
JournalIEEE Communications Magazine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2015


  • Cryptography
  • OFDM
  • Physical layer
  • Spread spectrum communication
  • Time-frequency analysis
  • Wireless communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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