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Diagnosing and Locating Wireless Disruption

Researchers: Srinivasan Seshan, Peter Steenkiste, Dave Andersen

Research Area: Mobility | Next Generation Secure and Available Networks

Abstract

As users and administrators are becoming more comfortable with wireless network technology, they have begun to rely on such networks for more mission-critical applications. Unfortunately, the key benefit of wireless networks - that you can use them anywhere - also creates a key weakness - that it is difficult to control the propagation of wireless signals This weakness makes it easy to eavesdrop on wireless transmissions, for external wireless transmitters (malicious or otherwise) to interfere with wireless communication, and to mount difficult-to-detect attacks on wireless networks.

The primary goal of our work is to help network administrators determine what signals are interfering with the operation of their network and locate the source of the interfering signal. To achieve these goals, we will explore a combination of algorithmic and technological approaches in the following areas:

Signal Identification: The first aspect of our work will focus on identifying other signals present in the environment. This will help in identifying both benign and malicious interference that disrupts wireless communication. In this work, we will focus on the the use of the flexible software-defined radios to analyze interfering signals.

Coverage Characterization: The degree to which the coverage of an access point matches the target coverage area (e.g. the footprint of the home) directly affects both the performance and the vulnerability of the wireless network. We will develop simple techniques to measure the coverage area. Developing a better understanding of coverage will also play an important role in developing algorithms for localizing signal sources.

Signal Localization: The final aspect will focus on locating the source of signals using cost and time-effective methods enabled by software steer-able radios. This aspect will permit the detection and location of intruding devices such as rogue access points or interfering clients.