Secret-Free Device Pairing in the mmWave Band

by   Ziqi Xu, et al.
The University of Arizona
University of Arkansas

Many Next Generation (NextG) applications feature devices that are capable of communicating and sensing in the Millimeter-Wave (mmWave) bands. Trust establishment is an important first step to bootstrap secure mmWave communication links, which is challenging due to the lack of prior secrets and the fact that traditional cryptographic authentication methods cannot bind digital trust with physical properties. Previously, context-based device pairing approaches were proposed to extract shared secrets from common context, using various sensing modalities. However, they suffer from various limitations in practicality and security. In this work, we propose the first secret-free device pairing scheme in the mmWave band that explores the unique physical-layer properties of mmWave communications. Our basic idea is to let Alice and Bob derive common randomness by sampling physical activity in the surrounding environment that disturbs their wireless channel. They construct reliable fingerprints of the activity by extracting event timing information from the channel state. We further propose an uncoordinated path hopping mechanism to resolve the challenges of beam alignment for activity sensing without prior trust. A key novelty of our protocol is that it remains secure against both co-located passive adversaries and active Man-in-the-Middle attacks, which is not possible with existing context-based pairing approaches. We implement our protocol in a 28GHz mmWave testbed, and experimentally evaluate its security in realistic indoor environments. Results show that our protocol can effectively thwart several different types of adversaries.


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