A message verification scheme based on physical layer-enabled data hiding for flying ad hoc network

Dilshani Mallikarachchi, Kok Sheik Wong, Joanne Mun-Yee Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for military as well as civilian applications such as search and rescue operations, disaster management, parcel delivery and agriculture, is becoming increasingly popular, mainly due to their versatile nature and relatively inexpensive operating costs. However, one of the most significant barriers in the widespread adoption of UAVs for the aforementioned applications is the increasing concern for wireless communication security within the network. Unfortunately, the nodes that comprise these networks are extremely constrained in terms of storage space, processing power and battery life, which require light-weight security protocols that align with these limitations. The current standards for message authentication and verification predominantly rely on lightweight cryptographic techniques. However, there is continual scope for improvement, particularly in the realm of computational efficiency, to better align with the constraints inherent to UAVs. This paper explores data hiding in a multi-UAV environment, to form a light-weight message verification scheme to confirm the identity of the transmitting node. First, five venues having the potential to hide data are analyzed. Based on the analysis of bit error rate obtained from the simulated multi-UAV environment, both cyclic prefix and padding bits are selected. Next, a codeword is generated for each transmission and it is embedded along with the unique ID key, κ of the transmitting node into each venue respectively, and the output is transmitted as Hello packets. Subsequently, the receiving node extracts and decodes the codeword in order to verify the authenticity of the transmitting node. An evaluation of the proposed scheme has been conducted by using a simulated UAV environment. In the best case scenario, the proposed authentication scheme can achieve a successful verification rate of at least 80% at a maximum hop-count of 10 hops. Through computational cost analysis, in comparison to the conventional methods, the proposed scheme was found to have a significantly lower total execution time of 1.7μs. In addition, the security analysis shows that when the proposed scheme is paired with physical unclonable functions (PUFs), it is able to resist common security attacks, including man-in-the-middle, replay and cloning attacks.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalMultimedia Tools and Applications
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 23 Feb 2024


  • Data hiding
  • Message verification
  • Multi-hop
  • UAV

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