Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Barry E. Mullins, PhD.


Wireless networks are particularly vulnerable to spoofing and route poisoning attacks due to the contested transmission medium. Traditional bit-layer defenses including encryption keys and MAC address control lists are vulnerable to extraction and identity spoofing, respectively. This dissertation explores three novel strategies to leverage the wireless physical layer to improve security in low-rate wireless personal area networks. The first, physical layer protocol manipulation, identifies true transceiver design within remote devices through analysis of replies in response to packets transmitted with modified physical layer headers. Results herein demonstrate a methodology that correctly differentiates among six IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver classes with greater than 99% accuracy, regardless of claimed bit-layer identity. The second strategy, radio frequency fingerprinting, accurately identifies the true source of every wireless transmission in a network, even among devices of the same design and manufacturer. Results suggest that even low-cost signal collection receivers can achieve greater than 90% authentication accuracy within a defense system based on radio frequency fingerprinting. The third strategy, based on received signal strength quantification, can be leveraged to rapidly locate suspicious transmission sources and to perform physical security audits of critical networks. Results herein reduce mean absolute percentage error of a widely-utilized distance estimation model 20% by examining signal strength measurements from real-world networks in a military hospital and a civilian hospital.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number