Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Engineering Science


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Dr. Xianbin Wang & Dr. Serguei Primak


As an alternative and appealing approach to providing information security in wireless communication systems, secret key generation at physical layer has demonstrated its potential in terms of efficiency and reliability over traditional cryptographic methods. Without the necessity of a management centre for key distribution or reliance on computational complexity, physical layer key generation protocols enable two wireless entities to extract identical and dynamic keys from the randomness of the wireless channels associated with them.

In this thesis, the reliability of secret key generation at the physical layer is examined in practical wireless channels with imperfect channel state information (CSI). Theoretical analyses are provided to relate key match rate with channel's signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), degrees of channel reciprocity, and iterations of information reconciliation.

In order to increase key match rate of physical layer secret key generation, improved schemes in the steps of channel estimation and sample quantization are proposed respectively. In the channel estimation step, multiple observations of the wireless channels are integrated with a linear processor to provide a synthesized and more accurate estimation of the wireless channel. In the sample quantization step, a magnitude based quantization method with two thresholds is proposed to quantize partial samples, where specific quantization areas are selected to reduce cross-over errors. Significant improvements in key match rate are proven for both schemes in theoretical analysis and numerical simulations. Key match rate can even achieve 100% in both schemes with the assistance of information reconciliation process.

In the end, a practical application of physical layer secret key generation is presented, where dynamic keys extracted from the wireless channels are utilized for securing secret data transmission and providing efficient access control.