EuroS&P Paper: Castle: A Video Game-based Covert Channel

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Castle: A Video Game-based Covert Channel

The Internet has become a critical communication infrastructure for citizens to organize protests and express dissatisfaction with their governments. This fact has not gone unnoticed, with governments clamping down on this medium via censorship, and circumvention researchers working tirelessly to stay one step ahead. In this paper, we explore a promising new avenue for covert channels: using real-time strategy (RTS) video games as a cover protocol.

The popularity of platforms like Steam have given rise to a rich population of video games for use as cover. Further, the common properties of games in the same genre simplify the process of adapting channels to evade detection. Castle demonstrates how these facts can be leveraged to design a coding scheme for translating data into game commands in a way that is general across games and requires little per-game customizations. The current Castle prototype can provide throughput which is amenable to transfer of textual data (e.g., e-mail, image free articles, etc.).

Bridger Hahn, Undergraduate researcher
Rishab Nithyanand, PhD student
Phillipa Gill, Assistant professor
Rob Johnson, Research assistant professor