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Opportunistic Encryption: A Trade-Off between Security and Throughput in Wireless Networks

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4 Author(s)

Wireless network security based on encryption is widely prevalent at this time. However, encryption techniques do not take into account wireless network characteristics such as random bit errors due to noise and burst errors due to fading. We note that the avalanche effect that makes a block cipher secure also causes them to be sensitive to bit errors. This results in a fundamental trade-off between security and throughput in encryption based wireless security.1 Further, if there is an adversary with a certain attack strength present in the wireless network, we see an additional twist to the security-throughput trade-off issue. In this paper, we propose a framework called opportunistic encryption that uses channel opportunities (acceptable signal to noise ratio) to maximize the throughput subject to desired security constraints. To illustrate this framework and compare it with some current approaches, this paper presents the following: 1) mathematical models to capture the security-throughput trade-off, 2) adversary models and their effects, 3) joint optimization of encryption and modulation (single and multirate), 4) the use of forward error correcting (FEC) codes to protect encrypted packets from bit errors, and 5) simulation results for Rijndael cipher. We observe that opportunistic encryption produces significant improvement in the performance compared to traditional approaches.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing  (Volume:4 ,  Issue: 4 )