Zero-Knowledge Authentication in Mobile Ad Hoc Networks

Mindy K. Schockling


United States military operations have become increasingly reliant on unmanned aircraft systems for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities in recent years. Live video streams from imaging sensor systems on aircraft can be transmitted to ground troops to improve their situational awareness. However, data are sent over insecure wireless channels, and adversaries have taken advantage of the unprotected communications link to intercept live video feed. The insufficient security of tactical communications hinders the effectiveness of U.S. military operations. This research evaluates the communications cost of an authentication scheme based on a zero-knowledge (ZK) proof to determine if it provides a viable solution to ensuring integrity of origin in tactical mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs). The findings of this study suggest that ZK authentication performs well for some network configurations, but it performs very poorly for others. Available bandwidth, network size and topology requirements, desired transmission distance, and other considerations may determine if ZK authentication is suitable for tactical MANETs.