Keys through ARQ: Theory and practice

Abdallah Y.
Abdel Latif M.
Youssef M.
Sultan A.
El Gamal H.

This paper develops a novel framework for sharing secret keys using the Automatic Repeat reQuest (ARQ) protocol. We first characterize the underlying information theoretic limits, under different assumptions on the channel spatial and temporal correlation function. Our analysis reveals a novel role of dumb antennas in overcoming the negative impact of spatial correlation on the achievable secrecy rates. We further develop an adaptive rate allocation policy, which achieves higher secrecy rates in temporally correlated channels, and explicit constructions for ARQ secrecy coding that enjoy low implementation complexity. Building on this theoretical foundation, we propose a unified framework for ARQ-based secrecy in Wi-Fi networks. By exploiting the existing ARQ mechanism in the IEEE 802.11 standard, we develop security overlays that offer strong security guarantees at the expense of only minor modifications in the medium access layer. Our numerical results establish the achievability of nonzero secrecy rates even when the eavesdropper channel is less noisy, on the average, than the legitimate channel, while our Linux-based prototype demonstrates the efficiency of our ARQ overlays in mitigating all known, passive and active, Wi-Fi attacks at the expense of a minimal increase in the link setup time and a small loss in throughput. © 2011 IEEE.