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Feasibility and Applications of a Wireless Firewall

  • Most of today’s wireless communication devices operate on unlicensed bands with uncoordinated spectrum access, with the consequence that RF interference and collisions are impairing the overall performance of wireless networks. In the classical design of network protocols, both packets in a collision are considered lost, such that channel access mechanisms attempt to avoid collisions proactively. However, with the current proliferation of wireless applications, e.g., WLANs, car-to-car networks, or the Internet of Things, this conservative approach is increasingly limiting the achievable network performance in practice. Instead of shunning interference, this thesis questions the notion of „harmful“ interference and argues that interference can, when generated in a controlled manner, be used to increase the performance and security of wireless systems. Using results from information theory and communications engineering, we identify the causes for reception or loss of packets and apply these insights to design system architectures that benefit from interference. Because the effect of signal propagation and channel fading, receiver design and implementation, and higher layer interactions on reception performance is complex and hard to reproduce by simulations, we design and implement an experimental platform for controlled interference generation to strengthen our theoretical findings with experimental results. Following this philosophy, we introduce and evaluate a system architecture that leverage interference. First, we identify the conditions for successful reception of concurrent transmissions in wireless networks. We focus on the inherent ability of angular modulation receivers to reject interference when the power difference of the colliding signals is sufficiently large, the so-called capture effect. Because signal power fades over distance, the capture effect enables two or more sender–receiver pairs to transmit concurrently if they are positioned appropriately, in turn boosting network performance. Second, we show how to increase the security of wireless networks with a centralized network access control system (called WiFire) that selectively interferes with packets that violate a local security policy, thus effectively protecting legitimate devices from receiving such packets. WiFire’s working principle is as follows: a small number of specialized infrastructure devices, the guardians, are distributed alongside a network and continuously monitor all packet transmissions in the proximity, demodulating them iteratively. This enables the guardians to access the packet’s content before the packet fully arrives at the receiver. Using this knowledge the guardians classify the packet according to a programmable security policy. If a packet is deemed malicious, e.g., because its header fields indicate an unknown client, one or more guardians emit a limited burst of interference targeting the end of the packet, with the objective to introduce bit errors into it. Established communication standards use frame check sequences to ensure that packets are received correctly; WiFire leverages this built-in behavior to prevent a receiver from processing a harmful packet at all. This paradigm of „over-the-air“ protection without requiring any prior modification of client devices enables novel security services such as the protection of devices that cannot defend themselves because their performance limitations prohibit the use of complex cryptographic protocols, or of devices that cannot be altered after deployment. This thesis makes several contributions. We introduce the first software-defined radio based experimental platform that is able to generate selective interference with the timing precision needed to evaluate the novel architectures developed in this thesis. It implements a real-time receiver for IEEE 802.15.4, giving it the ability to react to packets in a channel-aware way. Extending this system design and implementation, we introduce a security architecture that enables a remote protection of wireless clients, the wireless firewall. We augment our system with a rule checker (similar in design to Netfilter) to enable rule-based selective interference. We analyze the security properties of this architecture using physical layer modeling and validate our analysis with experiments in diverse environmental settings. Finally, we perform an analysis of concurrent transmissions. We introduce a new model that captures the physical properties correctly and show its validity with experiments, improving the state of the art in the design and analysis of cross-layer protocols for wireless networks.

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Author:Matthias Wilhelm
URN (permanent link):urn:nbn:de:hbz:386-kluedo-43455
Advisor:Jens Schmitt
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language of publication:English
Publication Date:2016/03/23
Date of first Publication:2016/03/23
Publishing Institute:Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Granting Institute:Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Acceptance Date of the Thesis:2015/04/13
Date of the Publication (Server):2016/03/24
Tag:IEEE 802.15.4; firewall; interference
Number of page:XVI, 167
Faculties / Organisational entities:Fachbereich Informatik
CCS-Classification (computer science):C. Computer Systems Organization / C.2 COMPUTER-COMMUNICATION NETWORKS / C.2.0 General / Security and protection (e.g., firewalls) (REVISED)
DDC-Cassification:0 Allgemeines, Informatik, Informationswissenschaft / 004 Informatik
Licence (German):Standard gemäß KLUEDO-Leitlinien vom 30.07.2015