Preamble Injection and Spoofing Attacks in Wi-Fi Networks

Zhengguang Zhang, Marwan Krunz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Scopus citations


In Wi-Fi networks, every frame begins with a preamble that is used to support frame detection, synchro-nization, and channel estimation. The preamble also establishes compatibility and interoperability among devices that operate different Wi-Fi versions (e.g., IEEE 802.11a/g/n/ac/ax). Despite the crucial functions of the preamble, no guarantees can be made on its authenticity or confidentiality. Only weak integrity protection is currently possible. In this paper, we introduce novel Preamble Injection and Spoofing (PrInS) attacks that exploit the vulnerabilities of the preamble. Specifically, an adversary can inject forged preambles without any payload for the purpose of disrupting legitimate receptions or forcing legitimate users to de-fer their transmissions. The proposed PrInS attacks are effective irrespective of the Wi-Fi versions used by the adversary and its targets, as the attacks take advantage of the physical (PHY) layer receive state machine and/or capture effect. The efficacy of our attacks are validated experimentally using software-defined radios (SDRs). Our results show that the adversary can almost silence the channel, bringing the throughput of a legitimate user to 2% of its normal throughput. Even at 30 dB less power, the adversary still causes an 87% reduction in the legitimate users' throughput. To mitigate the PrInS attacks, we propose a backward-compatible scheme for preamble authentication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2021 IEEE Global Communications Conference, GLOBECOM 2021 - Proceedings
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781728181042
StatePublished - 2021
Event2021 IEEE Global Communications Conference, GLOBECOM 2021 - Madrid, Spain
Duration: Dec 7 2021Dec 11 2021

Publication series

Name2021 IEEE Global Communications Conference, GLOBECOM 2021 - Proceedings


Conference2021 IEEE Global Communications Conference, GLOBECOM 2021


  • Wi-Fi networks
  • denial-of-service
  • injection and spoofing attack
  • physical-layer security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Health Informatics


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