Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) 2023

The Day-After-Tomorrow: On the Performance of Radio Fingerprinting over Time

The performance of Radio Frequency (RF) fingerprinting techniques is negatively impacted when the training data is not temporally close to the testing data. This can limit the practical implementation of physical-layer authentication solutions. To circumvent this problem, current solutions involve collecting training and testing datasets at close time intervals---this being detrimental to the real-life deployment of any physical-layer authentication solution. We refer to this issue as the Day-After-Tomorrow (DAT) effect, being widely attributed to the temporal variability of the wireless channel, which masks the physical-layer features of the transmitter, thus impairing the fingerprinting process.

In this work, we investigate the DAT effect shedding light on its root causes. Our results refute previous knowledge by demonstrating that the DAT effect is not solely caused by the variability of the wireless channel. Instead, we prove that it is also due to the power-cycling of the radios, i.e., the turning off and on of the radios between the collection of training and testing data. We show that state-of-the-art RF fingerprinting solutions double their performance when the devices under test are not power-cycled, i.e., the accuracy increases from about 0.5 to about 1 in a controlled scenario.

Finally, we propose a new technique to mitigate the DAT effect in real-world scenarios. Our experimental results show a significant improvement in accuracy, from approximately 0.45 to 0.85. Additionally, our solution reduces the variance of the results, making the overall performance more reliable.

Hamad Bin Khalifa University

Savio Sciancalepore
Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e)

Gabriele Oligeri
Hamad Bin Khalifa University

Paper (ACM DL)