Secure Device Pairing Based on a Visual Channel: Design and Usability Study Academic Article uri icon


  • Pairing is the establishment of authenticated key agreement between two devices over a wireless channel. Such devices are ad hoc in nature as they lack any common preshared secrets or trusted authority. Fortunately, these devices can be connected via auxiliary physical (audio, visual, tactile) channels which can be authenticated by human users. They can, therefore, be used to form the basis of a pairing operation. Recently proposed pairing protocols and methods are based upon bidirectional physical channels. However, various pairing scenarios are asymmetric in nature, i.e., only a unidirectional physical channel exists between two devices (such as between a cell phone and an access point). In this paper, we show how strong mutual authentication can be achieved even with a unidirectional visual channel, where prior methods could provide only a weaker property termed as presence. This could help reduce the execution time and improve usability of prior pairing methods. In addition, by adopting recently proposed improved pairing protocols, we propose how visual channel authentication can be used even on devices that have very limited displaying capabilities, all the way down to a device whose display consists of a cheap single light-source, such as a light-emitting diode. We present the results of a preliminary usability study evaluating our proposed method.

published proceedings

  • IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security

altmetric score

  • 9

author list (cited authors)

  • Saxena, N., Ekberg, J., Kostiainen, K., & Asokan, N.

citation count

  • 26

complete list of authors

  • Saxena, Nitesh||Ekberg, Jan-Erik||Kostiainen, Kari||Asokan, N

publication date

  • March 2011