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Context-Based Zero-Interaction Authentication

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Abstract: For the past several years, enthusiastic and ambitious projections have been made for the rapid growth of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) ecosystem. Intel, for instance, has predicted that by next year (2020), the number of connected IoT devices will grow to around 200 billion worldwide, which is more than 20 devices for every person. Where are all these IoT devices? It turns out that over 70% of currently deployed IoT devices are in business, manufacturing, and healthcare sectors, and domestic and personal IoT devices seem to be concentrated only in the hands of enthusiastic early adopters, but not the general public. Increasing the adoption of these devices will require them to become easier to use.

One of the main hindrances to the adoption of IoT is the long-standing tension between security and usability. In particular, one of the paramount concerns that have continued to vex researchers is the question of how to quickly, securely, and effortlessly establish a common security key between a newly introduced device and an existing network and to subsequently manage the established connection securely. This is an extremely important problem because key establishment is one of the first configuration steps that needs to be done after powering a device on. And, because IoT devices often have simplistic user interfaces, it is often one of the clumsiest steps. The goal of this work is to make key configuration transparent.

Context-based pairing and authentication is a promising solution to this challenge. It exploits spatiotemporal randomness in the ambient environment (e.g., audio, luminosity, or received signal strength indicator), often called contextual information. Devices that use context-based security take advantage of the fact that the common contextual information is shared only by a limited group of closely located devices. In this talk, we will discuss ways that we can use context-based pairing to transparently commission a new IoT device: to set it up, all you have to do is plug it in. We will discuss the difficulties with zero-involvement context-based pairing work, including reliability, key randomness, and key reconciliation.

Bio: I’m an assistant professor of Computer Science at Loyola University Chicago. I work on hardware and software for cyber-physical systems. My goal is to make IoT systems more efficient, reliable, and secure. Previously, I was a grad student in Computer Engineering at Wisconsin in the Wisely lab.”

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group Seminar series.

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