Researchers at MIT have created a transmitter that could stop hackers from attacking IoT devices.
Such devices are vulnerable to hack attacks that locate, intercept, and overwrite data, and jam signals, according to researchers working on the project.
One method that can be used to protect data on IoT networks is frequency hopping. This sends each data packet, containing thousands of individual bits, on a random, unique radio frequency (RF) channel.
This makes it difficult for hackers to trace individual packets. However, previous iterations of this method have typically slowed operations down to the extent that expert hackers are still able to mount successful attacks.
To combat this, the MIT researchers have developed a transmitter that hops frequencies for every bit of a data packet each microsecond. They said this is fast enough to thwart even the quickest and most sophisticated attacks.
Rapid switching of RF channels
To achieve this, the transmitter uses a bulk acoustic wave (BAW) resonator to quickly switch between RF channels for each bit of data sent. Packet-level frequency hopping sends one data packet at a time, on a single one-megahertz channel, across a range of 80 channels.
The researchers have combined the transmitter with a channel generator that selects a random channel to send each bit every microsecond. Because channel selection is quick and random, and there is no fixed frequency offset, a hacker can never tell which bit is going to which channel.
In addition, the research team have developed a wireless protocol to support the ultrafast frequency-hopping process.
“With the current existing [transmitter] architecture, you wouldn’t be able to hop data bits at that speed with low power,” said Rabia Tugce Yazicigil, a postdoc researcher in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “But by developing this protocol and radio frequency architecture together, we offer physical-layer security for the connectivity of everything.”
Initially, the technology could give organisations the ability to secure smart meters, he said, and it could also help to secure medical devices, such as insulin pumps and pacemakers.