The applicability of ambient sensors as proximity evidence for NFC transactions


Near Field Communication (NFC) has enabled mobile phones to emulate contactless smart cards. Similar to contactless smart cards, they are also susceptible to relay attacks. To counter these, a number of methods have been proposed that rely primarily on ambient sensors as a proximity detection mechanism (also known as an anti-relay mechanism). In this paper, we empirically evaluate a comprehensive set of ambient sensors for their effectiveness as a proximity detection mechanism for NFC contactless-based applications like banking, transport and high-security access controls. We selected 17 sensors available via the Google Android platform. Each sensor, where feasible, was used to record the measurements of 1,000 contactless transactions at four different physical locations. A total of 252 users, a random sample from the university student population, were involved during the field trials. After careful analysis, we conclude that no single evaluated mobile ambient sensor is suitable for proximity detection in NFC-based contactless applications in realistic deployment scenarios. Lastly, we identify a number of potential avenues that may improve their effectiveness.

2017 IEEE Security and Privacy Workshops