On the physical layer security of backscatter wireless systems

Walid Saad, Xiangyun Zhou, Zhu Han, H. Vincent Poor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Backscatter wireless communication lies at the heart of many practical low-cost, low-power, distributed passive sensing systems. The inherent cost restrictions coupled with the modest computational and storage capabilities of passive sensors, such as RFID tags, render the adoption of classical security techniques challenging; which motivates the introduction of physical layer security approaches. Despite their promising potential, little has been done to study the prospective benefits of such physical layer techniques in backscatter systems. In this paper, the physical layer security of wireless backscatter systems is studied and analyzed. First, the secrecy rate of a basic single-reader, single-tag model is studied. Then, the unique features of the backscatter channel are exploited to maximize this secrecy rate. In particular, the proposed approach allows a backscatter system's reader to inject a noise-like signal, added to the conventional continuous wave signal, in order to interfere with an eavesdropper's reception of the tag's information signal. The benefits of this approach are studied for a variety of scenarios while assessing the impact of key factors, such as antenna gains and location of the eavesdropper, on the overall secrecy of the backscatter transmission. Numerical results corroborate our analytical insights and show that, if properly deployed, the injection of artificial noise yields significant performance gains in terms of improving the secrecy of backscatter wireless transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6836141
Pages (from-to)3442-3451
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Secrecy rate
  • artificial noise
  • backscatter communication
  • physical layer security


Dive into the research topics of 'On the physical layer security of backscatter wireless systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this