VibeRing: Using vibrations from a smart ring as an out-of-band channel for sharing secret keys


Sougata Sen and David Kotz. VibeRing: Using vibrations from a smart ring as an out-of-band channel for sharing secret keys. Journal of Pervasive and Mobile Computing, volume 78, article 101505, 16 pages. Elsevier, December 2021. doi:10.1016/j.pmcj.2021.101505. ©Copyright Elsevier. Revision of sen:vibering.


Many Internet of Things (IoT) devices are capable of sensing their environment, communicating with other devices, and actuating on their environment. Some of these IoT devices, herein known as “smartThings”, collect meaningful information from raw data when they are in use and in physical contact with their user (e.g., a blood-glucose monitor); the smartThing’s wireless connectivity allows it to transfer that data to its user’s trusted device, such as a smartphone. However, an adversary could impersonate the user and bootstrap a communication channel with the smartThing while the smartThing is being used by an oblivious legitimate user.

To address this problem, in this paper, we investigate the use of vibration, generated by a smartRing, as an out-of-band communication channel to unobtrusively share a secret with a smartThing. This exchanged secret can be used to bootstrap a secure wireless channel over which the smartphone (or another trusted device) and the smartThing can communicate. We present the design, implementation, and evaluation of this system, which we call VibeRing. We describe the hardware and software details of the smartThing and smartRing. Through a user study we demonstrate that it is possible to share a secret with various objects quickly, accurately and securely as compared to several existing techniques. Overall, we successfully exchange a secret between a smartRing and various smartThings, at least 85.9% of the time. We show that VibeRing can perform this exchange at 12.5 bits/second at a bit error rate of less than 2.5%. We also show that VibeRing is robust to the smartThing’s constituent material as well as the holding style. Finally, we demonstrate that a nearby adversary cannot decode or modify the message exchanged between the trusted devices.

Citable with [BibTeX]

Projects: [thaw]

Keywords: [authentication] [iot] [mhealth] [privacy] [security] [sensors] [wearable]

Available from the publisher: [DOI]

Available from the author: [bib] [pdf]
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[Kotz research]