In-band Secret-Free Pairing for COTS Wireless Devices


Numerous Internet of Things devices are missing the user interfaces (screens, keyboards) required to enter passwords or change the default passwords. When it comes to these devices, building trust from scratch can be difficult. We address the issue of device pairing in an environment where there are no secrets that are shared. Pairing is a two-step process that necessitates mutual authentication between the two parties involved, as well as agreement on a common key that can be put to use in further bootstrapping of essential cryptographic mechanisms. We propose a secret-free and in-band trust establishment protocol that will enable the secure pairing of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) wireless devices with a hub. This protocol will achieve the goal of achieving secure pairing without the use of a secret key. Our protocol, in contrast to the current state of the art, does not call for any hardware or firmware modifications to be made to the devices, nor does it require any out-of-band channels; rather, it can be applied to any COTS device. In addition, our protocol is resistant to active signal manipulation attacks such as the recently demonstrated signal nullification at an intended receiver. These types of attacks are becoming increasingly common. These security properties can be accomplished in-band with the assistance of a helper device such as a smartphone and by taking advantage of laws of signal propagation that are difficult to fake. In order to validate the safety of the proposed protocol, we carry out a comprehensive theoretical investigation. In addition, we validate our theoretical results with experiments that use commercially available devices and radios developed by the USRP.

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