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A secure and efficient authentication protocol for mobile RFID systems.

1. Introduction

RFID is a wireless communication technology which automatically identifies target without physical contact. An RFID application system consists of includes three components: tag, reader and backend database. There are two types of tags available in the market: active and passive tag. Most of tags are composed of IC chip, antenna and memory etc. Active tags require additional power, such as battery whereas Passive tags depend on electromagnetic induction to generate power.

Researchers have indicated that applications of RFID systems may pose a serious threat to information security and consumer privacy. An adversary can easily eavesdrop the communication between tag and reader for the insecure wireless channel they used. Many tags use light weight security protocols to communicate with reader and backend database. In these protocols, lightweight operations such as hash function, XOR etc. are used instead of symmetric or asymmetric encryption algorithm because the most widely used tags are low-cost passive tags and have very limited computational resources.

Mobile RFID networks services can be established by converging the existing wireless networks for mobile phone and RFID networks. Originally, the goal of RFID networks is distribution and circulation of objects; however, mobile RFID network services are targeting personal users [1]. Mobile phone, as a powerful device enabling complex personal services can provide personalized services to a user in many ways [2].

The RFID system causes security and privacy problems such as impersonation, traceability and reply attack because it uses wireless communication with RF signals. For this reason, the mobile RFID system has these problems which are similar to the RFID system, and they are more serious than the RFID system because anyone has the mobile device as a reader and obtains information of tagged objects. Traditionally, it is believed that the communication channel between the reader and the database is safe. However, in the mobile RFID system, the communication between the reader and the database is using wireless channel, thus, the communication channel between the reader and the database is not assumed to be safe. Those features require a new authentication protocol suitable to mobile RFID systems.

There is scant published research on the feasible rogue-scanning and eavesdropping ranges for mobile RFID. Such research would benefit both mobile RFID security analyses and public policy formulation. The importance of mobile RFID privacy in restricted environment such as military operations reinforces an oft-neglected point: Privacy is not just a consumer concern. The enhanced supply-chain visibility that makes mobile RFID so attractive to industry can also, in another guise, betray competitive intelligence. Enemy forces monitoring or harvesting mobile RFID communications in a military supply chain could learn about troop movements. In civilian applications, similar risks apply. For example, many retailers see item-level RFID tagging as a means to monitor stock levels on retail shelves, and avoid out-of-stock products. Individually tagged objects could also make it easier for competitors to learn about stock turnover rates; corporate spies could walk through shops surreptitiously scanning items.

From the above discussion, it is clear that it is necessary to design a new protocol for mobile RFID systems that incorporates a form of challenge-response mechanism to avoid attacks like:

* Authentication attack

* Replay attack

* Communication channel attack (eavesdropping)

The remaining paper is structured as follows. Section 2 presents in detail about the Mobile RFID Network Services. Section 3 describes the desirable security goals of RFID systems. Section 4 describes the related work in security of Mobile RFID. Section 5 describes about the proposed method. The security analysis of the proposed method is given in Section 6.The Implementation details of the proposed method are described in Section 7. The Performance of the proposed method is evaluated in Section 8. Finally Section 9 outlines the conclusions.

2. Mobile RFID Network Services

Mobile RFID network services are the services which are provided to users by using mobile phone having a built-in RFID reader through mobile networks. Users having mobile phone can use ubiquitous services regardless of time and location with the networks. Figure 1 shows the network architecture proposed by mobile RFID forum [3]. A mobile device needs Object Discovery System (ODS), Object Information Service (OIS), and Object Tracing Service (OTS) to acquire the detailed information related with RFID tag read by a reader.

ODS, as a RFID retrieval system, is similar to Object Naming Service (ONS) of EPCglobal which notifies the location (URI) of server having the related product information for an RFID code in a tag. OIS, a databases system of individual industry or institution, is similar to EPCIS and is called as a RFID information server storing dynamic and static information for various kinds of products.


OTS, which corresponds to EPCDS in EPCglobal networks gathers, stores the historical data of products, and provides retrieval services to users.

3. Security Goals of RFID Systems

The Ave main goals of RFID systems are explained in the following.

Maintain data security. Illegitimate reading of data must be prevented in RFID systems because the data may be privacy sensitive. The simplest way of reaching that goal is to move all data from tags into the backend infrastructure. If the tags only have an identifier with random appearance and all associated data is securely stored in the backend, one has no hassle in preventing unwanted reading. As there are no tight resource restrictions in the backend like in tags, one can implement flexible access control schemes there. Further, one can access and modify the associated data without the tag being in the read range of a reader.

Cope with denial-of-service. This goal is directly connected to the availability of RFID systems. Even if attackers try to put a system out of service, ideally the system should keep running and provide service to legitimate users. A prerequisite is that the integrity of the system is preserved. As it is not possible to prevent all kinds of denial-of service attacks (e.g. shielding tags with a Faraday cage), RFID systems should at least provide means to cope with denial-of- service attacks, e.g. by implementing means for detection of malicious actions and recovering from them. The RFID protocols presented in this paper are designed in such a way that no additional vulnerabilities are introduced by them.

Prevent counterfeiting. For many applications, preventing counterfeiting is a goal that should outweigh the higher cost of RFID compared to optical barcodes, which can be copied easily. If RFID tags only emit unique numbers for identification, they can be copied or mimicked easily. But with RFID tags that can prove their genuineness, counterfeiting can be prevented effectively. Such RFID tags can then be used for security sensitive applications like for granting access to restricted areas.

Prevent illegitimate access. Illegitimate access to system components enables the infiltration of false data. Thus, it is essential to ensure that only data from trusted sources is processed. Preventing illegitimate access is thus a prerequisite for ensuring the integrity of the data in an RFID system.

Prevent unwanted recognition and tracking. Recognition and tracking of objects are core functionalities of RFID systems. They are relevant in all supply chain applications. But if persons get involved, that functionality is often no longer a wanted one for privacy reasons. There is thus a severe conflict that needs to be solved: Sometimes the functionality of recognition and tracking is wanted and sometimes not. There need to be technically implemented models to provide a suitable trade-off.

Based on the presented system-level goals, one can identify the following three tasks that an RFID protocol needs to perform: identification, authentication, and secret identifier modification.

Identification is the main purpose of an RFID system and thus needs to be provided by any RFID protocol. This is done in practice by assigning a unique identifier to each tag.

Authentication is used for preventing counterfeiting and for preventing illegitimate access to backend systems. If tags are able to prove their identity, they cannot be copied easily and one can be sure that the data they provide is valid.

Secret Identifier modification is used to prevent unwanted recognition and tracking. As a static identifier can be used by anybody for recognition and tracking, the idea is to change the secret key identifier regularly. This is done in such a way that only the legitimate backend entity can recognize it.

4. Related Work

Many approaches have been proposed to achieve private authentication in RFID Systems. Ohkubo et al. [4], also based on hashing chain, proposed a mutual authentication scheme for RFID system. The scheme aimed to provide the forward secrecy: that means even if we assume that an attacker can compromise a tag at some time, he cannot trace the past communications from the same tag. Unfortunately, the scheme cannot resist the replay attack [5].The Henrici-Mauller scheme [6] updates a tag's identification after each successful authentication, and uses this varying identification to protect location privacy and anonymity. However, a tag always responses the same hashed value of the identification before the next successful authentication. This property allows an attacker to trace tags. Yang et al. [7,8] improved the Henrici-Mauller scheme to achieve anonymity. However, it was pointed out that the scheme cannot protect privacy [5].

Rhee et al. [9], also based on PRNG function and hash function, proposed a mutual authentication scheme for RFID systems. However, the scheme cannot provide forward secrecy. Like Rhee et al.'s scheme, Molnar and Wagner's scheme [10] still cannot provide forward secrecy: once a tag is compromised, the past communications from this tag can be traced. Juels [11] suggested a scheme to prevent the cloned tags from impersonating legitimate GEN-2 tags. However, his protocol did not take eavesdropping and privacy issues into consideration, therefore provides no protection against privacy invasion and secret information leakage [12].

Dimitriou proposed scheme [13] that intends to perform mutual authentication using a shared secret [ID.sub.i]. In this scheme, the reader sends a random number [N.sub.R] as the challenge. Upon receiving the challenge, the tag generates another random number [N.sub.T] and computes the signature [hID.sub.i] ([N.sub.T], [N.sub.R]) as the response to the challenge. To help the back-end server search the corresponding [ID.sub.i], the tag also sends a metaID h([ID.sub.i]) to the reader. However, an adversary can trace the tag by metaID. To address this problem, the scheme updates [ID.sub.i] after each successful interrogation. This enhancement can protect the tag from being traced forever. But the tag is traceable between two successive successful interrogations because metaID remains unchanged.

Tsudik proposed a scheme called YA-TRAP (Yet Another Trivial RFID Authentication Protocol) [14]. In YA-TRAP, tag Ti shares a unique key ki with the reader. [T.sub.i] also stores a timestamp ti that records the last time at which it was interrogated. J. Collins et al. [15] proposed that the tags can be saved either by destroying them or just by partially disabling them. Later Inoue et al. [16], Karjoth [17] and Good et al. [18] suggested bringing some changes in this approach. The approach named "Minimalist cryptography" was introduced by Juels [19] which is also a kind of renaming approach in which tags can change their identity on their own. Juels and Pappu [20] proposed a new approach called the re-encryption in which they applied some cryptography and used keys and cipher text, but were not generalized. So, to generalize it they made changes in it and named it "Universal re-encryption" [21].

A Faraday Cage [22] approach was also proposed to get rid of some security issues which are nothing but an extra device added approach. There is a similar kind of approach named Proxying approach in which Floerkemeier [23] introduced a prototype named "Watchdog Tag". Rieback et al. [24] and Juels et al. [25] addressed a solution in which they introduced a concept of "RFID Guardian". Yong Ki Lee and Ingrid Verbauwhede [26] propose two protocols SRAC and A-SRAC. The first protocol SRAC (Semi-Randomized Access Control) is designed using only a hash function as security primitives in tags. In spite of very restricted functionality, SRAC resolves not only security properties, such as the tracking problem, the forward secrecy and the denial of service attack, but also operational properties such as the scalability and the uniqueness of metaIDs. The second protocol ASRAC (Advanced SRAC) resolves the replay attack in the cost of a random number generator in tags. Moreover, these schemes have significantly reduced the amount of tag transmissions which is the most energy consuming task.

Another invention is a 'RFID blocker tag' [27] which exploit tag singulation (anti-collision) protocols in order to interrupt the communication with all tags or tags within a specific ID range. The blocker works for the most relevant anti-collision protocols (tree walking and ALOHA) and may be used for privacy protection but it can also be misused for mounting denial-of-service attacks. Y.C. Lee et al. [28] proposed an improved protocol which can avoid tracking and spoofing attack through the different hash value during each authentication.

Shang-ping Wang et al. proposed a low-cost RFID mutual authentication protocol [29] based on the method of HMAC under the assumption that the Hash function is secure, the property that the new protocol can achieve mutual authentication between reader and tag. He Lei et al. proposed a one-way Hash based low-cost authentication protocol [30] with forward security and analyze its efficiency but the computation load was not taken into consideration. K.H.Yeh and Lo developed a robust EPC GEN-2 conformed protocol, called TRAP-3, to pursue stronger anonymity property and security feature [31]. Unfortunately, TRAP-3 still suffers from the de-synchronization attacks. He Lei et al. proposed an improved lightweight authentication protocol [32] using substring functions and analyzed its property. Allen Y. Chang et al. proposed an effective and secured certificate mechanism using mobile devices as RFID readers together with the credit cards containing RFID tags [33]. The result shows it can improve the existing RFID security issues under the premise of safety, efficiency and compatibility of the EPC network. Sun et al. [34] showed a desynchronization attack on SASI with at most 96 trials.

5. Proposed Method

According to the problems in the literature review outlined above, an improved protocol is proposed which is also based on the hash function, and it can prevent illegal access, eavesdropping, tracking, impersonation and replay attacks. The protocol is illustrated in figure 2.

The notations used in the proposed method are summarized in Table 1. Mobile RFID reader has to register and authenticate itself to the server. The server authenticates the reader and sends an [ID.sub.R] and [K.sub.R] to the reader.


The details of the proposed method are described in following steps.

1. The reader generates and saves a pseudo random number r by utilizing PRNG and sends a query request to the tag.

2. After receiving the query message the tag computes H ([ID.sub.t] [direct sum] [K.sub.i]) and forwards it to the reader.

3. The reader generates H ([ID.sub.R]) and forwards it along with the message H ([ID.sub.t] [direct sum] [K.sub.i]) to the server.

4. The server checks whether H ([ID.sub.t] [direct sum] [K.sub.i]) forwarded by the reader matches with the stored hash code of the tags. If it matches then the database authenticates the tag as a legitimate one. Then it verifies the authenticity of the reader by matching the received hash code of the reader H ([ID.sub.R]) with the stored hash code. If they are equal, the reader passes the authentication; otherwise, the reader is not authenticated.

The server updates the confidential information [K.sub.i] to [K.sub.i+1] where [K.sub.i+1] = PRNG ([K.sub.i]).g is the random number used to update the secret key Ki. The server computes H (Ki) and operates XOR algorithm with g to generate H ([K.sub.i]) [direct sum] g. This message along with the detailed information of tag D is forwarded in encrypted form to the reader using the reader password [K.sub.R].

5. The reader decrypts and obtains the tag data D. It then utilizes the XOR algorithm to generate H ([K.sub.i]) [direct sum] g [direct sum] r and forward it to the tag.

The tag verifies the authenticity of the reader by using the random number r. It then verifies whether the received hash code of the secret identifier [K.sub.i] matches with the computed hash code of [K.sub.i]. If it matches then it computes [K.sub.i+1] by performing the XOR operation of [K.sub.i] with random number g. It generates [K.sub.i+1] and updates the secret key information [K.sub.i] to [K.sub.i+1].

6. Security Analysis

In this section, the security strength of the proposed method is analyzed.

Eavesdropping: In the process of the proposed scheme the information has been encoded by hash function which makes the adversary to get the original value impossible because of the one-way characteristic. The attackers can't know the detailed content of the information even they espionage the outputs; In the process of (4), the server forwards the tag detail in encrypted form to the reader so the attackers also cannot know the real information.

Denial of Service Attack: The proposed protocol needs synchronization between the server and the tag. The tag refreshes its secrets after taking confirmation from the server. An adversary can prevent the reader or the tag from receiving a message. If the adversary performs this attack on the last flow of the protocol, he can prevent the tag from taking confirmation. This breaks the synchronization between the tag and the server because the server refreshes the tag secrets but the tag does not. However, in the protocol, the server makes itself synchronize with the tag in such a situation because it stores old and new values of the tag secrets.

Tag Cloning: Tag cloning means that, the data on a valid tag is scanned and copied by a malicious RFID reader and the copied data is embedded onto a fake tag. Authentication of RFID reader prevents this cloning attack. In the protocol, a tag never generates genuine replies unless it verifies the reader first. This verification thwarts the cloning attack.

Forward Security: The forward-security property means that even if the adversary obtains the current secret key, he still cannot derive the keys used for past time periods. To ensure this, a forward-secure message authentication scheme which involves key-evolving is used. For each valid read operation, a tag uses the current key [K.sub.i] for creation and verification of authentication tags. At the end of each valid read operation, [K.sub.i] is updated by a one-way hash function H and previous [K.sub.i] is deleted. An attacker breaking in gets the current key. But given the current key it is still not possible to derive any of the previous keys.

Privacy Attacks: In privacy attacks an adversary wants to learn the contents of the tag and queries the tags. In each session, the tag uses a hash function to generate H ([ID.sub.t] [direct sum] [K.sub.i]) and responds the reader with the hash code. Only valid server can access the information associated with the tag, so it can only extract the correct information [ID.sub.t] from the message. Thus, the protocol provides information privacy for the tag.

Replay Attack: The attackers can obtain outputs of the tag, and transmit the eavesdropped messages to the reader. But he cannot impersonate the legitimate tag since the outputs are different on every session. Therefore, the scheme is secure and against the impersonation and replay attack.

7. Implementation

In this section, focus is on the security module implementation cost for the RFID tag because the passive RFID tag is hardware constrained device so that the implementation of the complex encryption schemes such as public key encryption or the symmetric key encryption is currently very rough task. Although the complex encryption scheme equipped tag could be implemented, the tag would cost more. Therefore, the implementation cost should be considered very carefully before implementing the security module into the Active or Passive tag.

Excluding the basic need for RFID tag fabrication such as antenna, IC and memory area, only 1,000 ~ 3,500 gates can be assigned for security module implementation. To verify whether the proposed scheme can be implemented practically, experiment is made on the total number of gates for the proposed scheme. It has been designed in such a way that the data and pseudonym may be implemented in parallel. Therefore, 128 XOR modules are needed and the register which stores the 128 bit-length temporal data for implementation of the nonce or the ID of tag is also needed. However, these basic needs can be reduced by reducing the bit-length

of data which the implementation module takes for input.

For example, if we design the implementation module which takes 64 bit-length data as the input then the number of XOR module for the data padding and register size for the temporal input/output data storage can be reduced almost by half. In the proposed work, this module can be implemented within 5,208 gates if it is assumed that the implementation module is designed to take 32 bit-length data as input data. The total gates of the work are even smaller than those of the AES module or MD-4. Through experiment, especially in security and performance viewpoint, it is found that the work has the advantage of composition of hash and exclusive-or than just applying the hash function or the exclusive-or.

The proposed method is implemented and tested on a RFID reader prototype model. Wireless mode of communication is used in between the RFID reader and mobile phone to make it act as a Mobile RFID reader. The objective of the experiment is to validate various aspects introduced in the proposed method and display the results. The screenshots of the implemented proposed method is shown in the figures below.






To test the effectiveness and security of the proposed system, testing is conducted from various aspects. On hardware, a reader is selected and on software, programs are designed to conduct testing from various aspects such as accessing, decryption, modifying tag data, damaging and copying tag.

Testing result could be concluded as following:

* The access of tag data through authentic or copied Reader is possible, but it is difficult to analyze the tag information out successfully. In other words, even unauthentic user could read out tag data, but they couldn't decrypt the information.

* Unauthentic user might modify tag data through specific ways, but such tag could not pass the validation of system.

* Once tag is damaged or copied, it could not pass the validation of system.

8. Efficiency Analysis

Besides security, care is also taken about how efficient a RFID system operates. The efficiency of a RFID system is measured by computation load on a tag, communication load, and computation load on the back-end server.

Computation load on a tag This is measured by how many hash operations are needed on a tag for a complete interrogation. The proposed scheme involves two hash operations in total which are used for computing H ([ID.sub.t] [direct sum] [K.sub.i]) and updating the secret key respectively.

Communication Load Five messages are needed for a complete interrogation.

Computation load on the server The proposed scheme can precompute the hash values before querying the tag and reader. During interrogation, the back-end server only needs to search the database. If appropriate searching algorithm is adopted, the server could And a matching value with complexity of O(1). In batch mode, the complexity is O(n).

The following table compares the proposed scheme with previous work on efficiency. Computation load of the back-end sever is compared for batch mode.

According to TABLE 2, it can be seen that the computation load of tags and communication load in the proposed scheme is mediate. However, the computation load on the server of the proposed method is the lowest among all these protocols. Since the number of tags may be large, the computation load on the back-end server is critical to the practical deployment of a RFID system.

9. Conclusion

Authentication protocols for RFID tag/reader are important both for secure implementations as well as for allaying consumer's concerns with regard to their privacy and security in Mobile RFID environment. Having gained interest from researchers and industry alike over the past few years, this field is still very much in its infancy. Given the importance of security and privacy vulnerabilities faced by most such authentication protocols, it is of paramount importance to proactively stay current on possible new threats to security/privacy. Thus, this paper proposes an efficient Mobile RFID authentication protocol in insecure communication channels, which utilizes only hash functions, XOR calculations, and a pseudorandom generator. Many existing RFID authentication technologies have been designed taking into consideration the assumption that only the communication between a tag and a reader is insecure. However, the proposed protocol has been designed taking into consideration the possibility that not only the communication between a tag and a reader but also that between a reader and a database is insecure.

If mobile RFIDs are to be used in every field of industry in the future, the risks involved in their use may also be applied not only to communications between a tag and a reader but also to that between a reader and a database, as they are both wireless channels. Therefore, if the proposed protocol would be improved to become safer and more efficient in the future, it will provide its users with a safer and more secure service. Also, the research on the light weight should be followed with the other researches to get more competitive in RFID cost. In a ubiquitous environment, the environment in which users can use low-cost devices to access many kinds of services should be built as soon as possible Also, the more researches must be carried out not only for the convenience of such tools but also to protect the privacy of users.

Received: 27 December 2010, Revised 10 February 2010, Accepted 2 March 2011


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M. Sandhya (1), T.R. Rangaswamy (2)

(1) Assistant Professor (Senior Lecturer)--CSE Department B.S.A.Crescent Engineering College Chennai, India

(2) IT Department B.S.A.Crescent Engineering College Chennai, India

Authors Biographies

M. Sandhya obtained her B.E. (Computer Science & Engineering) in 1998 and M.E. (Computer Science & Engineering) in 2002. She is pursuing her Ph.D. (Computer Science & Engineering) in Anna University, Chennai, India. She has 14 years of Academic experience. She has authored a book on "Artificial Intelligence". She has presented 7 papers in International Conferences and Journals. She is a review member of reputed journals such as European Journal on Information Systems (Macmillan Publishers) and International Journal of Information Technology & Management (InderScience Publishers).She is also a review Committee member of IEEE International Conference on Machine Language & Computing and Conference on Network Security & Applications (CNSA 2011).She is currently working as Assistant Professor (Senior Grade), Computer Science & Engineering Department in B.S.Abdur Rahman University, (formerly B.S.A.Crescent Engineering College), Chennai, India. Her area of interest encompasses Artificial Intelligence, Automata Theory, RFID, Security in Databases, Network Security etc.

Dr. T.R. Rangaswamy obtained his Diploma in Electrical Engineering in 1968, B.E. in Electrical & Electronics Engineering in 1977 (GCT, Coimbatore) and M.E. in Applied Electronics in 1985 (CIT, Coimbatore). He obtained his Ph.D. from Anna University Chennai in 2004. He has 22 years of experience in "Commissioning, Operation and Maintenance" of thermal power stations in National & Multinational organizations. He has also 16 years of academic experience. He has co-authored a book on "ENGINEERING BASICS" (Electrical, Electronics & Computer Engineering). He has published 85 papers in National, and International Conferences and Journals. He is currently working as Professor in Information Technology and Dean (Academic Affairs) in B.S.A. University, (formerly B.S.A. Crescent Engineering College), Chennai, India. His area of interest encompasses neural networks, fuzzy logic, artificial intelligence, adaptive, predictive and expert systems, Network Security etc.
Table 1. Notations of Proposed Protocol

Symbol                           Meanings

[ID.sub.t]        Unique Identifier of the tag
[ID.sub.R]        Unique Identifier of the reader
[K.sub.I]         Secret key shared between the tag
                    and the server
[K.sub.i+1]       Updated Secret key used in between
                    the tag and the server
[K.sub.R]         Secret key shared between the reader
                    and the server
[cross product]   Exclusive OR operation
r                 A random number generated through the
                    use of a PRNG within the reader
g                 A random number generated through the
                    use of a PRNG within the server for
                    updating [K.sub.i]
D                 Detailed Information about the tag in
                    the database
H                 Hash function

Table 2. Comparison of Protocols on Efficiency

                 Proposed       [18]           [11]       [4]    [5]

Hash operation      2            1              3          0      1
Communication       5            3              5          4      2
Computation        O(n)     O([n.sup.2])   O([n.sup.2])   O(n)   O(n)
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Title Annotation:radio-frequency identification
Author:Sandhya, M.; Rangaswamy, T.R.
Publication:Journal of Digital Information Management
Article Type:Report
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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