FADEWICH: Fast Deauthentication over the Wireless Channel
Giulio Lovisotto, Mauro Conti, Ivan Martinovic and Gene Tsudik
University of Oxford, University of Padua, University of Oxford, University of California, Irvine

Both authentication and deauthentication are instrumental for preventing unauthorized access to computer and data assets. While there are obvious motivating factors for using strong authentication mechanisms, convincing users to deauthenticate is not straight-forward, since deauthentication is not considered mandatory. A user who leaves a logged-in workstation unattended (especially for a short time) is typically not inconvenienced in any way; in fact, the other way around – no annoying reauthentication is needed upon return. However, an unattended workstation is trivially susceptible to the well-known “lunchtime attack” by any nearby adversary who simply takes over the departed user’s log-in session. At the same time, since deathentication does not intrinsically require user secrets, it can, in principle, be made unobtrusive. To this end, this paper designs the first automatic user deauthentication system – FADEWICH – that does not rely on biometric- or behavior-based techniques (e.g., keystroke dynamics) and does not require users to carry any devices. It uses physical properties of wireless signals and the effect of human bodies on their propagation. To assess FADEWICH’s feasibility and performance, extensive experiments were conducted with its prototype. Results show that it suffices to have nine inexpensive wireless sensors deployed in a shared office setting to correctly deauthenticate all users within six seconds (90% within four seconds) after they leave their workstation’s vicinity. We considered two realistic scenarios where the adversary attempts to subvert FADEWICH and showed that lunchtime attacks fail.