US 20070032195 A1
A BLUETOOTH device is provided wherein the output RF transmission power level during pairing is purposefully reduced from otherwise conventional or normal communication levels to a low power level, greatly reducing the range of possible interception. Security can be improved even more by further reducing the transmit power even below that defined for a class 2 radio to an extremely low power level. After the link keys have been passed and/or other pairing processes, the BLUETOOTH devices may safely return to normal power levels to continue communications. Thus, a BLUETOOTH device is forced to radiate in low power when pairing is performed. The user(s) may be directed to co-locate the pairing BLUETOOTH devices in any appropriate manner, e.g., through a display prompt on the BLUETOOTH device. In an alternative embodiment, a BLUETOOTH device may be required to transmit data keys (e.g., a link key) and/or other pairing operations over a temporary wired connection (or temporary line-of-sight or near line-of-sight connection such as infrared) to another BLUETOOTH device.
19. A method of providing security during a pairing operation of a wireless network device, comprising:
receiving data at said wireless network device associated with network establishment during network establishment, said data received over a physical front end during said pairing operation; and
once said pairing operation is completed, switching to a wireless front end to wirelessly communicate data between said wireless network device and a network.
20. The method of providing security during a pairing operation of a wireless network device according to
said physical front end is a wired front end.
21. The method of providing security during a pairing operation of a wireless network device according to
said data includes link key information.
22. The method of providing security during a pairing operation of a wireless network device according to
said wireless network device is a BLUETOOTH piconet device.
23. A method for securely transmitting a data key from a wireless network device, comprising:
transmitting with a physical front end of said wireless network device said data key to another network device during a pairing operation; and
after said data key has been transmitted, switching to an RF front end of said wireless network device to transmit wirelessly.
24. The method for securely transmitting a data key from a wireless network device according to
said wireless network device is a piconet network device.
25. The method for securely transmitting a data key from a wireless network device according to
said physical front end is a infrared connection.
26. The method for securely transmitting a data key from a wireless network device according to
said wireless network device is a BLUETOOTH piconet device.
27. The method for securely transmitting a data key from a wireless network device according to
said physical connection is a wired connection.
28. The method for securely transmitting a data key from a wireless network device according to
said infrared connection transmits said data key along a directed path towards another wireless network device.
29. Apparatus for providing security during a pairing operation of a wireless network device, comprising:
means for receiving data at said wireless network device associated with network establishment during network establishment, said data received over a physical front end during said pairing operation; and
means for switching to a wireless front end to wirelessly communicate data between said wireless network device and a network once said pairing operation is completed.
30. The apparatus for providing security during a pairing operation of a wireless network device according to
said network establishment is a pairing operation.
31. The apparatus for providing security during a pairing operation of a wireless network device according to
said data is a link key.
32. The apparatus for providing security during a pairing operation of a wireless network device according to
said wireless network device is a BLUETOOTH piconet device.
33. Apparatus for securely transmitting a data key from a wireless network device, comprising:
means for transmitting with an physical front end of said wireless network device said data key to another network device during a pairing operation; and
means for switching to an RF front end of said wireless network device to transmit wirelessly after said data key has been transmitted.
34. The apparatus for securely transmitting a data key from a device according to
said physical front end is an infrared front end.
35. The apparatus for securely transmitting a data key from a device according to
said wireless network device is a BLUETOOTH piconet device.
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates generally to piconet wireless networks. More particularly, it relates to a more secure pairing process in a piconet network such as a BLUETOOTH™ type piconet network.
Piconets, or small wireless networks, are being formed by more and more devices in many homes and offices. In particular, a popular piconet standard is commonly referred to as a BLUETOOTH™ piconet. Piconet technology in general, and BLUETOOTH technology in particular, provides peer-to-peer communications over short distances.
The wireless frequency of the piconets may be 2.4 GHz as per BLUETOOTH standards, and/or typically have a 20 to 1000 foot range. The piconet RF transmitter may operate in common frequencies which do not necessarily require a license from the regulating government authorities, e.g., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States. Alternatively, the wireless communication can be accomplished with infrared (IR) transmitters and receivers, but this is less preferable because of the directional and visual problems often associated with IR systems.
A plurality of piconet networks may be interconnected through a scatternet connection, in accordance with BLUETOOTH™ protocols. BLUETOOTH network technology may be utilized to implement a wireless piconet network connection (including scatternet). The BLUETOOTH standard for wireless piconet networks is well known, and is available from many sources, e.g., from the web site www.bluetooth.com.
As part of an initial communication between BLUETOOTH devices, the BLUETOOTH devices within range of one another perform what is known in the art as “pairing”.
In particular, as shown in
When configuring a BLUETOOTH device in a BLUETOOTH piconet, the devices communicating on the piconet must know the specific unique 48-bit address of matching devices on the piconet. For instance, it may be desirable for entertainment devices (e.g., TV, radio, CD player, DVD player, MP3 player, etc.) having BLUETOOTH communication capabilities to communicate with one another, but it may not be desirable (nor make sense) for appliances such as a stove or refrigerator, toaster, blender, etc. having BLUETOOTH communication capabilities talk with entertainment devices.
This is particularly true since the maximum number of BLUETOOTH devices in a piconet is somewhat restricted. For instance, current BLUETOOTH standards permit one (1) master and seven (7) slaves to be active in the piconet at any one time (plus a number of BLUETOOTH devices being capable of being ‘parked’).
According to the standard, all BLUETOOTH devices are assigned a unique 48-bit BLUETOOTH device address (BD_ADDR). This address is derived from the IEEE802 standard, and is divided into three fields: a lower address part (LAP) comprising 24 bits; an upper address part comprising 8 bits; and a non-significant address part (NAP) comprising 16 bits. The LAP and UAP form the significant part of the 48-bit BLUETOOTH device address (BD_ADDR). The total address space obtained is 232.
The BLUETOOTH device address (BD_ADDR) is unique for each BLUETOOTH device. The BLUETOOTH addresses are publicly known, and can be obtained by a manufacturer via MMI interactions, or, automatically, via an inquiry routine by a BLUETOOTH device. Blocks of 48-bit addresses may be assigned to various manufacturers, who in turn factory pre-configure each BLUETOOTH device to include a unique 48-bit address (BD_ADDR) as well as a table of unique 48-bit addresses of ‘paired’ devices which will all communicate over a common piconet.
When a user buys or replaces a BLUETOOTH equipped electronic device, the user must configure the new BLUETOOTH device for communication with relevant and desired devices in the relevant piconet. Moreover, to provide a certain level of security, the BLUETOOTH protocol provides for encryption of data passed therebetween. To this end, there are a number of different link and encryption keys currently used in BLUETOOTH, all of which are collectively referred to herein as ‘data keys’.
For instance, link keys are used as authentication keys between BLUETOOTH devices, and to generate encryption keys.
A master key is used for point to multi-point communications, and may replace for a time the current link key.
A unit key is a semi-permanent, often ROM-based key generated in every single unit often only once during factory setup. Though unlikely, the unit key might be exchanged at any time.
A combination key is dependent on two BLUETOOTH devices. Each device produces and sends a random number to the other, and a new 128 bit combination key is derived using a SAFER+ algorithm. A combination key is often created toward the end of unit pairing.
A 128 bit initialization key is a link key used for a single session, and is created each time the BLUETOOTH device is initialized. An initialization key is used only when no combination keys or unit keys have been exchanged yet. An initialization key is often created toward the beginning of unit pairing.
An encryption key is derived from the current link key, and is used by an encryption engine to produce encrypted data.
To communicate, both BLUETOOTH devices 602, 604 must share the same secret key. The secret key can be built in by manufacturers (a fixed key), or could be derived from a Personal Identification Number (PIN) or BLUETOOTH passkey.
To begin communicating with one another, the BLUETOOTH devices 602, 604 bond by having link managers in the respective devices 602, 604 verify with one another that they share a secret key through a process called authentication. While often time authentication takes place at link setup, it need not. After authentication, the link managers of the respective devices 602, 604 create and exchange a link key. The process of authentication and link key generation are collectively called BLUETOOTH bonding or pairing.
If the BLUETOOTH devices 602, 604 determine that they share the same secret key, then they go on to use their shared secret key to generate a link key and ultimately to encrypting traffic on the link.
The present inventors have appreciated that there is a weakness in the BLUETOOTH specification that might allow an adversary to steal the keys used for authentication and encryption that are intended to keep BLUETOOTH communications secure.
For instance, an attack might be made during the initial pairing of two BLUETOOTH devices 602, 604 that enables the adversary to intercept keys over the air and thereafter eavesdrop on future connections. Though BLUETOOTH transactions used for mobile commerce (m-commerce) that require a high level of security would most assuredly have greater security imposed by a higher layer (i.e. application layer using SSL, RSA, etc.) this security weakness in BLUETOOTH makes the user vulnerable to attack in two ways. First he or she could be impersonated by one who has intercepted the device addresses and keys. Possible examples would be impersonating a person's headset and stealing cellular air time or impersonating a person's laptop and stealing dial-up network access from the cell phone or stealing address book information.
Moreover, it is possible for an unauthorized receiver to eavesdrop on information passed between two (or more) BLUETOOTH devices 602, 604. Examples of the type of information would be non-encrypted e-mail, web sites being accessed, or even which stock quotes were being requested. Though some of this may not seem very important to some, it has the potential of providing an unfair and generally illegal advantage, particularly in the corporate or business world.
One possible way around the vulnerability of BLUETOOTH devices during pairing might be for a manufacturer to provide previously and permanently paired devices, paired in the secrecy and security of the manufacturing facility. However, such predetermined and/or dedicated pairing would tend to restrict use of the BLUETOOTH devices such that they would work only with other devices sold by the same manufacturer.
There is a need for a more secure pairing technology and apparatus with respect to piconet devices in general, and BLUETOOTH™ piconet devices in particular.
In accordance with the principles of the present invention, an apparatus and method of providing security during a network establishment operation (e.g., a pairing operation of a piconet network device) comprises receiving a link key during pairing, and rejecting the received link key if transmitted at a power level above a low power threshold specifically intended for very close range communications.
A method for securely transmitting a data key from a piconet device in accordance with another aspect of the present invention comprises forcing an RF front end of the piconet device to transmit at a low power level to transmit the data key to another piconet device at the low power level. After the data key has been transmitted, the RF front end of the piconet device is reset to transmit at a normal power level for ordinary communications.
Features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following description with reference to the drawings, in which:
If one considers the range of a class I BLUETOOTH radio, the area where one could eavesdrop on the connection is over 30,000 square meters. If the three-dimensional aspects of the radio transmission are considered (e.g., an eavesdropper on another floor of a building) the number of places an adversary could be to intercept data packets is even greater than the two dimensional consideration.
As described above, the period of time in which the BLUETOOTH device users are most particularly vulnerable is during the pairing of two BLUETOOTH devices. In accordance with the principles of the present invention, RF transmissions are seriously reduced and/or replaced during the pairing of BLUETOOTH devices, to provide added security.
The present inventors have appreciated that during pairing, it is likely that the BLUETOOTH devices are closely located anyway, or at least that a temporary requirement to bring the devices close together will probably not be a large burden. By limiting the power level of RF transmissions in a BLUETOOTH device during pairing, the range of possible interception is greatly reduced from that otherwise allowed by the current BLUETOOTH standard.
For instance, if the radio power is limited to standard low power during pairing, the possible intercepting area would be just over 300 square meters. This is only one percent (1%) of the area in which the BLUETOOTH devices are vulnerable with the conventional use of the high powered radio during pairing, and far less if considering the three dimensional aspects such as in a large building.
While the use of standard low power specifically during pairing is within the scope of the present invention, security can be improved even more by further reducing the transmit power even below that defined for a class 2 radio. For instance, by adding an additional requirement that the two devices be only a few inches apart during pairing to allowing successful pairing at very low transmit levels, risk of eaves-dropping is extremely reduced from that otherwise allowed under the current BLUETOOTH standards.
In accordance with the principles of the present invention, the vulnerability is substantial during pairing operations only. Thus, after the link keys have been passed and/or other pairing processes, the BLUETOOTH devices may safely return to normal power levels to continue communications.
Thus, in accordance with the principles of the present invention, a BLUETOOTH device is forced to radiate in low power when pairing is performed.
It is also preferred that as pairing is being initiated, the BLUETOOTH device not accept temporary link keys from another BLUETOOTH device since it would be unsure what power that other device was transmitting at. Rather, it is preferred that the receiving BLUETOOTH device simply reject that pairing request, making a record of it, and then itself initiate key transfer back with that same other device in a low power mode in accordance with the principles of the present invention.
The user(s) may be directed to co-locate the pairing BLUETOOTH devices in any appropriate manner, e.g., through a display prompt on the BLUETOOTH device, through an audible instruction, through a written instruction sheet included with the BLUETOOTH device, etc.
In particular, as shown in
Importantly, in accordance with the principles of the present invention, the BLUETOOTH device 100 includes a low RF power capability 110, in addition to its normal operating level RF level(s) 120. This is depicted in
In the given embodiment, the pairing low power level control 110 directs the BLUETOOTH front end 140 to transmit at a power not exceeding that which provides a nominal range of no more than about, e.g., preferably 10 meters. Of course, much smaller ranges are possible and preferable, within the principles of the present invention.
In particular, in
In particular, in step 302 of
In step 304, the BLUETOOTH device is set for low transmission power. Alternatively, if provided, the BLUETOOTH device may be set to an ‘extremely low’ power, i.e., to a power below the lowest used for ordinary communications (and/or below those in the current BLUETOOTH specification).
In step 306, pairing operations are performed, including the exchange of data keys. In an alternative embodiment, the low power mode of the BLUETOOTH device may be used only to transmit a data key.
In step 308, it is determined whether or not the pairing operation has been completed. If not, the pairing process continues in step 306.
In step 310, once the pairing process using a low transmission power has been completed, the BLUETOOTH device is reset for normal communication activities at a normal power level.
In an alternative embodiment, a BLUETOOTH device may be required to transmit data keys (e.g., a link key) and/or other pairing operations over a temporary wired connection to another BLUETOOTH device.
In particular, a temporary physical or line-of-sight (e.g., Infrared) communication path (collectively referred to herein as ‘physical’ connection) may be required for pairing operations. The requirement for a temporary physical connection provides a secure connection between two (or more) BLUETOOTH devices during pairing operations, removing the need to transmit initial link keys over the air. This eliminates the possibility of interception of pairing signals by an unauthorized device, e.g., by a BLUETOOTH Sniffer.
In particular, in
The physical connection can be a short electrical or optical cable, e.g., provided by the manufacturer of the BLUETOOTH device.
In particular, as depicted in
Alternatively, the physical connection can be provided by a set of electrical contacts on one BLUETOOTH device that connects or meets with matching contacts on the other BLUETOOTH device. For instance, one BLUETOOTH device could include a pop-out connector that would not be visible under normal use, but which would extend to mate with the other BLUETOOTH device during the initial pairing operations.
The user can be prompted of the need to perform pairing operations, wait for confirmation of completion of the temporary physical connection (or monitor for it), and then perform the pairing operations only when the devices are physically connected.
In addition to providing extremely high security for the passage of data keys, the use of a physical connection between BLUETOOTH devices in a piconet to perform pairing operations reduces or eliminates the otherwise conventional hindrance associated with the higher level of technical expertise required by a user to properly initiate BLUETOOTH pairing.
In particular, in step 802 of
In step 804, the BLUETOOTH device prompts the user to physically connect the two (or more) BLUETOOTH devices to allow pairing operations to continue.
In step 806, a physical connection is made by the user between the two BLUETOOTH devices, either using a cable, direct connector-to-connector contact between the two BLUETOOTH devices, using a line-of-sight infrared connection, etc.
In step 808, the pairing operations are performed, including the exchange of data keys. In an alternative embodiment, the low power mode of the BLUETOOTH device may be used only to transmit a data key.
In step 810, it is determined whether or not the pairing operation has been completed. If not, the pairing process continues in step 808.
In step 812, once the pairing process using a low transmission power has been completed, the user is prompted to disconnect the physical connection or otherwise is instructed that normal wireless range operations may commence or continue.
Provision of a physical connection also opens up the possibility for an improved user experience while pairing. For instance, standard over-the-air pairing requires multiple steps by the user. One device needs to be placed in a pairable mode, while the other must be told to initiate pairing. It then scans for all devices and asks the user to select which one is the desired one. The user then must enter a PIN (this step may or may not still be desirable).
By supplying a physical connection, other user interaction can be removed. The user plugs in the cable into both devices. They communicate over the cable so that RF eavesdroppers are thwarted. They exchange device addresses, names, class, etc. They negotiate who generates the initial temporary link key. The link key is generated. The PINs are used to generate semikeys and finally, the link keys are verified by successfully linking over the air (but not exposing any keys to those near-by).
Of course, a cable is not the only implementation of this invention. For instance, suitable line-of-sight or near line-of sight devices could be used. An IrDA infrared link is an example of an alternative communication mechanism.
In another aspect of the invention, security in a BLUETOOTH device is enhanced by causing the RF front end of a first piconet device to transmit the data key along a directed path towards a second piconet device. Typically, the directed path is a straight line connecting the first piconet device to the second piconet device.
In known telecommunication systems, an RF front end transmits a signal to a receiving system. The RF front end transmits the signal in an outward radiating pattern from the RF front end. In comparison, under this aspect of the invention, the RF front end does not transmit the signal in an outward radiating pattern. Rather, the signal is transmitted along a linear path towards a receiver.
By directing the data key along a directed path from the first piconet device towards the second piconet device, the overall security of the system is increased. In order to effectively snoop the present embodiment, a BLUETOOTH snooper would be required to be positioned in a linear path directly between the first and second piconet devices. A BLUETOOTH snooper positioned merely in the vicinity of the first or second piconet devices would not effectively capture the transmitted data (e.g., the data key), unless the snooper is positioned along the directed path between the first and second piconet devices.
One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that there are numerous ways to direct a transmission along a directed path. For instance, two or more antennas can be used to form a beam forming network that can direct a transmitted signal. Such a beam forming network would allow a first piconet device to securely connect to a second piconet device by pointing the first piconet device towards the second piconet device.
The present invention improves BLUETOOTH security during pairing, and reduces the possibility of identity impersonation and/or eavesdropping. Pairing operations become simpler because there need be less interaction by the user, leading to a reduced risk of error in the pairing.
The disclosed embodiments reduce or eliminate the risk of someone intercepting the RF data sent during pairing between two devices. Once pairing has finished, further risk of eavesdropping has been virtually eliminated. A first embodiment restricts the transmit power while link keys are being passed. A second embodiment replaces over the air link exchange with a physical electrical connection. This also removes the need of a user interface to initiate pairing. In any event, these two embodiments in particular solve problems associated with BLUETOOTH eavesdropping.
The disclosed embodiments reduce security weaknesses found in BLUETOOTH by reducing or removing the risk of eavesdropping during the insecure period of pairing. Invention 2 also removes the requirement of the user initiating the pairing process through buttons or menus on one or both devices, making it much easier to take advantage of the BLUETOOTH connection, yet it does not force a permanent pairing as fixed link keys would.
While the invention has been described with reference to the exemplary embodiments thereof, those skilled in the art will be able to make various modifications to the described embodiments of the invention without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention.