Aanjhan Ranganathan awarded the ETH medal

ZISC researcher Aanjhan Ranganathan was awarded the ETH medal for his PhD thesis titled “Physical-layer Techniques for Secure Proximity Verification & Localization”.


Today, we live in a physical world where location and proximity information are ubiquitously used in a wide variety of systems. For example, contactless access tokens that use proximity information are prevalent today in a number of applications such as payment systems, hotel keycards, public transportation ticketing to name a few. Even modern automobiles today use proximity based entry systems. The car automatically detects and unlocks when the key fob is in close proximity and there is no need for the user to remove the key from his pocket. In addition to proximity, the exact location is critical for a large set of applications from personal navigation to advanced communication systems. With the advent of autonomous cyber physical systems such as self-driving cars and unmanned aerial vehicles, the set of applications is bound to only increase and it is important to ensure resilience of these systems to modern day cyber physical attacks. Several attacks have already been demonstrated on these systems. For example, researchers showed that the even though the car entry systems were designed to open only if the owner is within 1-2 m of the car, by simply relaying the radio transmissions between the car and the key, it was possible to unlock and in certain cases even drive away. This was possible even though the actual owner / key was tens of metres away from the car. Similarly, GPS, which is today the de-facto outdoor localisation system has been shown to be vulnerable to spoofing attacks. It is today possible to change the course of a ship or force a drone to land in an hostile area by simply spoofing GPS signals. His thesis addresses how we can secure the above systems and what are the challenges in doing so.

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Link to the dissertation: https://e-collection.library.ethz.ch/view/eth:49164

The ETH medal is given to outstanding dissertations after being evaluated by a panel of experts in the respective fields. The medal is awarded to top 8% of all PhDs awarded by ETH Zurich. The medals are listed at: https://www.ethz.ch/en/the-eth-zurich/education/awards/eth-medal/outstanding-doctoral-theses.html

ZISC congratulates Aanjhan on this great achievement!