Open Access

Passive Classification of Wireless NICs during Rate Switching

  • Cherita L. Corbett1,
  • Raheem A. Beyah2Email author and
  • John A. Copeland3
EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking20072008:495070

DOI: 10.1155/2008/495070

Received: 22 August 2007

Accepted: 27 November 2007

Published: 12 December 2007


Computer networks have become increasingly ubiquitous. However, with the increase in networked applications, there has also been an increase in difficulty to manage and secure these networks. The proliferation of 802.11 wireless networks has heightened this problem by extending networks beyond physical boundaries. We propose the use of spectral analysis to identify the type of wireless network interface card (NIC). This mechanism can be applied to support the detection of unauthorized systems that use NICs which are different from that of a legitimate system. We focus on rate switching, a vaguely specified mechanism required by the 802.11 standard that is implemented in the hardware and software of the wireless NIC. We show that the implementation of this function influences the transmission patterns of a wireless stream, which are observable through traffic analysis. Our mechanism for NIC identification uses signal processing to analyze the periodicity embedded in the wireless traffic caused by rate switching. A stable spectral profile is created from the periodic components of the traffic and used for the identity of the wireless NIC. We show that we can distinguish between NICs manufactured by different vendors and NICs manufactured by the same vendor using their spectral profiles.

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Authors’ Affiliations

Computer and Network Security Group, Sandia National Laboratories
Communications Assurance and Performance Group, Department of Computer Science, Georgia State University
Communications Systems Center, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology


© Cherita L. Corbett et al. 2008

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.