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Usable Security for Wireless Body-Area Networks
Cory Cornelius
Dartmouth TR2013-741

Abstract: We expect wireless body-area networks of pervasive wearable devices will enable in situ health monitoring, personal assistance, entertainment personalization, and home automation. As these devices become ubiquitous, we also expect them to interoperate. That is, instead of closed, end-to-end body-worn sensing systems, we envision standardized sensors that wirelessly communicate their data to a device many people already carry today, the smart phone. However, this ubiquity of wireless sensors combined with the characteristics they sense present many security and privacy problems.

In this thesis we describe solutions to two of these problems. First, we evaluate the use of bioimpedance for recognizing who is wearing these wireless sensors and show that bioimpedance is a feasible biometric. Second, we investigate the use of accelerometers for verifying whether two of these wireless sensors are on the same person and show that our method is successful as distinguishing between sensors on the same body and on different bodies. We stress that any solution to these problems must be usable, meaning the user should not have to do anything but attach the sensor to their body and have them just work.

These methods solve interesting problems in their own right, but it is the combination of these methods that shows their true power. Combined together they allow a network of wireless sensors to cooperate and determine whom they are sensing even though only one of the wireless sensors might be able to determine this fact. If all the wireless sensors know they are on the same body as each other and one of them knows which person it is on, then they can each exploit the transitive relationship to know that they must all be on that person’s body. We show how these methods can work together in a prototype system. This ability to operate unobtrusively, collecting in situ data and labeling it properly without interrupting the wearer’s activities of daily life, will be vital to the success of these wireless sensors.


Ph.D Dissertation. Advisor: David Kotz.

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   Cory Cornelius, "Usable Security for Wireless Body-Area Networks." Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report TR2013-741, September 2013.

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