Date of Award

Summer 8-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science

First Advisor

Sheikh I. Ahamed

Second Advisor

Douglas Harris

Third Advisor

Praveen Madiraju


The technology behind Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been around for a while, but dropping tag prices and standardization efforts are finally facilitating the expansion of RFID systems. The massive adoption of this technology is taking us closer to the well known ubiquitous computing scenarios. However, the widespread deployment of RFID technology also gives rise to significant user security issues. One possible solution to these challenges is the use of secure authentication protocols to protect RFID communications. A natural extension of RFID authentication is RFID tag searching, where a reader needs to search for a particular RFID tag out of a large collection of tags. As the number of tags of the system increases, the ability to search for the tags is invaluable when the reader requires data from a few tags rather than all the tags of the system. Authenticating each tag one at a time until the desired tag is found is a time consuming process. Surprisingly, RFID search has not been widely addressed in the literature despite the availability of search capabilities in typical RFID tags. In this thesis, we examine the challenges of extending security and scalability issues to RFID tag search and suggest several solutions.

This thesis aims to design RFID tag search protocols that ensure security and scalability using lightweight cryptographic primitives. We identify the security and performance requirements for RFID systems. We also point out and explain the major attacks that are typically launched against an RFID system. This thesis makes four main contributions. First, we propose a serverless (without a central server) and untraceable search protocol that is secure against major attacks we identified earlier. The unique feature of this protocol is that it provides security protection and searching capacity same as an RFID system with a central server. In addition, this approach is no more vulnerable to a single point-of-failure. Second, we propose a scalable tag search protocol that provides most of the identified security and performance features. The highly scalable feature of this protocol allows it to be deployed in large scale RFID systems. Third, we propose a hexagonal cell based distributed architecture for efficient RFID tag searching in an emergency evacuation system. Finally, we introduce tag monitoring as a new dimension of tag searching and propose a Slotted Aloha based scalable tag monitoring protocol for next generation WISP (Wireless Identification and Sensing Platform) tags.