Protecting physical layer secret key generation from active attacks

Miroslav Mitev, Arsenia Chorti, E. Veronica Belmega, H. Vincent Poor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Lightweight session key agreement schemes are expected to play a central role in building Internet of things (IoT) security in sixth-generation (6G) networks. A well-established approach deriving from the physical layer is a secret key generation (SKG) from shared randomness (in the form of wireless fading coefficients). However, although practical, SKG schemes have been shown to be vulnerable to active attacks over the initial “advantage distillation” phase, throughout which estimates of the fading coefficients are obtained at the legitimate users. In fact, by injecting carefully designed signals during this phase, a man-in-the-middle (MiM) attack could manipulate and control part of the reconciled bits and thus render SKG vulnerable to brute force attacks. Alternatively, a denial of service attack can be mounted by a reactive jammer. In this paper, we investigate the impact of injection and jamming attacks during the advantage distillation in a multiple-input–multiple-output (MIMO) system. First, we show that a MiM attack can be mounted as long as the attacker has one extra antenna with respect to the legitimate users, and we propose a pilot randomization scheme that allows the legitimate users to successfully reduce the injection attack to a less harmful jamming attack. Secondly, by taking a game-theoretic approach we evaluate the optimal strategies available to the legitimate users in the presence of reactive jammers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number960
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


  • Injection attacks
  • Jamming attacks
  • Physical layer security
  • Pilot randomization
  • Secret key generation


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