This project explores secret and efficient (preferably covert) communications by harnessing the resources brought in by smart everyday devices in emerging Internet of Things (IoT) environments. Reliability, efficiency, and secrecy are essential requirements in communication networks. Hiding that communication is even taking place is often crucial in adversarial environments and automatically achieves the increasingly important societal goals of privacy and anonymity. These indispensable features of today's networks are commonly obtained by allocating a growing fraction of network resources which could otherwise be used for communications. The last decade has seen a wide variety of novel networked systems. For example, future 5G systems are supposed to host hundred times more devices than current 4G networks. Rather than simply looking into how to accommodate more communicating objects with limited communication resources (energy, spectrum) and ask what the existing networks can do for them, this project investigates what these new communicating objects can do for the network. By focusing on IoT scenarios in which opportunistic and incremental addition of resources can result in large gains, this project will develop both theoretical foundations and easily adoptable practical algorithms that lead to substantial increases in covertness, security, and reliability under limited energy and spectrum resources. The research plan is organized in two central thrusts: The first thrust investigates a novel covert, secure and efficient communication scheme between mobile nodes, which has the main feature that any data transfer is only performed over short distances, thus reducing exposure to adversarial actions as well as energy and bandwidth requirements. The second thrust builds on the first one and devises secure coding schemes for the case where an eavesdropper discovers that messages are being exchanged and/or gets in possession of some helping IoT devices. Rather than studying the performance of existing coding schemes in this challenging environment, the goal is to find and study new coding strategies that are tailored to these important IoT-based communication scenarios. This project will offer technical solutions which are not present in previous (predominantly high level systems) studies of opportunistic networking, such as 1) exploiting overhearing opportunities in diverse network geometries and under various mobility patterns, 2) establishing covert communication via data storage and retrieval in mobile environments, 3) using incremental redundancy (which can be introduced at little cost in existing IoT network scenarios) for communications in adversarial and non-adversarial transmission environments, and 4) designing low-complexity coding schemes to exploit this redundancy.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
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