Quantifying Information Leakage in Tree-Based Hash Protocols

Karsten Nohl and David Evans
Eigth International Conference on Information and Communications Security (ICICS)
Raleigh, North Carolina
4-7 December 2006.


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems promise large scale, automated tracking solutions but also pose a threat to customer privacy. The tree-based hash protocol proposed by Molnar and Wagner presents a scalable, privacy-preserving solution. Previous analyses of this protocol concluded that an attacker who can extract secrets from a large number of tags can compromise privacy of other tags. We propose a new metric for information leakage in RFID protocols along with a threat model that more realistically captures the goals and capabilities of potential attackers. Using this metric, we measure the information leakage in the tree-based hash protocol and estimate an attacker's probability of success in tracking targeted individuals, considering scenarios in which multiple information sources can be combined to track an individual. We conclude that an attacker has a reasonable chance of tracking tags when the tree-based hash protocol is used.

Keywords: RFID privacy, tree-based hash protocols, privacy metric.


Paper (10 pages): [PDF]
Tech Report UVA-CS-2006-20 (12 pages): [PDF]