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Device Pairing at the Touch of an Electrode

Marc Roeschlin‚ Ivan Martinovic and Kasper Rasmussen


Device pairing is the problem of having two devices securely establish a key that can be used to secure subsequent communication. The problem arises every time two devices that do not already share a secret need to bootstrap a secure communication channel. Many solutions exist, all suited to different situations, and all with their own strengths and weaknesses. In this paper, we propose a novel approach to device pairing that applies whenever a user wants to pair two devises that can be physically touched at the same time. The pairing process is easy to perform, even for novice users. A central problem for a device (Alice) running a device pairing protocol, is determining whether the other party (Bob) is in fact the device that we are supposed to establish a key with. Our scheme is based on the idea that two devices can perform device pairing, if they are physically held by the same person (at the same time). In order to pair two devices, a person touches a conductive surface on each device. While the person is in contact with both devices, the human body acts as a transmission medium for intra-body communication and the two devices can communicate through the body. This body channel is used as part of a pairing protocol which allows the devices to agree on a mutual secret and, at the same time, extract physical features to verify that they are being held by the same person. We prove that our device pairing protocol is secure in our threat model and we build a proof of concept set-up and conduct experiments with 15 people to verify the idea in practice.

Book Title
Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS)