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Putting wireless signal security in a system security context

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The tetherless nature of wireless communications supports the operation of many applications and “ecosystems”, ranging from the day-to-day operation of a hospital to factory automation. Unfortunately, at this instant, there are many signals in the wireless ether that have no security baked in and for which the security/privacy implications are dire. In many cases, these wireless technologies are not even thought of by an organization’s security administrators. We will examine several examples of wireless signals that are prevalent and leaking sensitive information. Often, once a security analyst is aware of these problems, the solutions are simple, while in many other cases these problems require new techniques that complement higher-layer “cryptographic” tools—in short, to secure the signals themselves. Towards this objective, there has been interest recently in applying the principles of information theory and signal processing to develop a suite of physical layer security mechanisms. Although the community has made progress in the theory of securing the physical layer, there are many important issues that must be addressed if physical layer security is ever to be adopted by real and practical systems. In this talk, we briefly review several different flavors of physical layer security, and then examine the major hurdles that need to be addressed if physical layer security is to become adopted in practice. We will identify some philosophical questions related to how one places physical layer security in the context of a system’s security, and outline opportunities for applying physical layer security to real systems, especially if we can overcome the challenges we’ve outlined.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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