Encryption of confidential data with a secret key has become a widespread technique for securing wireless transmissions. However, existing key distribution methods that either deliver the secret key with a key distribution center or exchange the secret key using public-key cryptosystems are unable to establish perfect secret keys necessary for symmetric encryption techniques. This research considers secret key establishment, under the broad research area of information theoretic security, using the reciprocal wireless channel as common randomness for the extraction of perfect secret keys in multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO)communication systems. The presentation discusses the fundamental characteristics of the time-variant MIMO wireless channel and establishes a realistic channel simulation model useful for assessing key establishment algorithms. Computational examples show the accuracy and applicability of the model. The discussion then turns to an investigation of the influence of the spatial and temporal correlation of the channel coefficients on the bound of the key size generated from the common channel, and it is found that a sampling approach exists that can generate a key using the minimum sampling time. A practical key generation protocol is then developed based on an enhancement of a published channel coefficient quantization method that incorporates flexible quantization levels, public transmission of the correlation eigenvector matrix and low-density parity-check (LDPC) coding to improve key agreement. This investigation leads to the development of improved channel quantization techniques that dynamically shift the quantization boundaries at one node based on the information provided by the other node. Analysis based on a closed-form bound for the key error rate (KER) and simulations based on the channel model and measurement data show that the enhanced algorithms are able to dramatically reduce key mismatch and asymptotically approach the KER bound. Finally, other secret key generation algorithms based on channel-encryption rather than quantization are discussed, leading to a new concept for secret key generation using the common wireless channel.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





MIMO systems, cryptography, security