CloseTalker: Secure, Short-range Communication

THaW researchers will present a paper titled CloseTalker:  Secure, Short-range Ad Hoc Wireless Communication at MobiSys next week.

Abstract: Secure communication is difficult to arrange between devices that have not previously shared a secret. Previous solutions to the problem are susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks, require additional hardware for out-of-band communication, or require an extensive public-key infrastructure. Furthermore, as the number of wireless devices explodes with the advent of the Internet of Things, it will be impractical to manually configure each device to communicate with its neighbors.

Our system, CloseTalker, allows simple, secure, ad hoc communication between devices in close physical proximity, while jamming the signal so it is unintelligible to any receivers more than a few centimeters away. CloseTalker does not require any specialized hardware or sensors in the devices, does not require complex algorithms or cryptography libraries, occurs only when intended by the user, and can transmit a short burst of data or an address and key that can be used to establish long-term or long-range communications at full bandwidth.

In this paper we present a theoretical and practical evaluation of CloseTalker, which exploits Wi-Fi MIMO antennas and the fundamental physics of radio to establish secure communication between devices that have never previously met. We demonstrate that CloseTalker is able to facilitate secure in-band communication between devices in close physical proximity (about 5 cm), even though they have never met nor shared a key.

Timothy J. Pierson, Travis Peters, Ronald Peterson, and David Kotz. Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys), June 2019. ACM Press. DOI 10.1145/3307334.3326100.

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