Using the physical layer for wireless authentication in time-variant channels

Liang Xiao, Larry J. Greenstein, Narayan B. Mandayam, Wade Trappe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

262 Scopus citations


The wireless medium contains domain-specific information that can be used to complement and enhance traditional security mechanisms. In this paper we propose ways to exploit the spatial variability of the radio channel response in a rich scattering environment, as is typical of indoor environments. Specifically, we describe a physical-layer authentication algorithm that utilizes channel probing and hypothesis testing to determine whether current and prior communication attempts are made by the same transmit terminal. In this way, legitimate users can be reliably authenticated and false users can be reliably detected. We analyze the ability of a receiver to discriminate between transmitters (users) according to their channel frequency responses. This work is based on a generalized channel response with both spatial and temporal variability, and considers correlations among the time, frequency and spatial domains. Simulation results, using the ray-tracing tool WiSE to generate the time-averaged response, verify the efficacy of the approach under realistic channel conditions, as well as its capability to work under unknown channel variations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4570223
Pages (from-to)2571-2579
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Authentication
  • Cross-layer design
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Physical layer
  • Time-variant channel
  • Wireless


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