Eavesdropping vulnerability and countermeasure in infrared communication for IoT devices

Minchul Kim, Taeweon Suh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Infrared (IR) communication is one of the wireless communication methods mainly used to manipulate consumer electronics devices. Traditional IR devices support only simple operations such as changing TV channels. These days, consumer electronic devices such as smart TV are connected to the internet with the introduction of IoT. Thus, the user’s sensitive information such as credit card number and/or personal information could be entered with the IR remote. This situation raises a new problem. Since TV and the set-top box are visual media, these devices can be used to control and/or monitor other IoT devices at home. Therefore, personal information can be exposed to eavesdroppers. In this paper, we experimented with the IR devices’ reception sensitivity using remotes. These experiments were performed to measure the IR reception sensitivity in terms of distance and position between the device and the remote. According to our experiments, the transmission distance of the IR remote signal is more than 20 m. The experiments also revealed  that curtains do not block infrared rays. Consequently, eavesdropping is possible to steal the user’s sensitive information. This paper proposes a simple, practical, and cost-effective countermeasure against eavesdropping, which does not impose any burden on users. Basically, encryption is used  to prevent the eavesdropping. The encryption key is created by recycling a timer inside the microcontroller typically integrated in a remote. The key is regenerated whenever the power button on a remote is pressed, providing the limited lifecycle of the key. The evaluation indicates that the XOR-based encryption is practical and effective in terms of the processing time and cost.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8207
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was supported by the Institute of Information and Communications Tech‐ nology Planning and Evaluation grant funded by the Korea government (No. 2019‐0‐00533, Re‐ search on CPU Vulnerability Detection and Validation/No. 2019‐0‐01343, Regional Strategic In‐ dustry Convergence Security Core Talent Training Business) and the National Research Founda‐ tion of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIT) (No. NRF‐2019R1A2C1088390).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Eavesdropping
  • Infrared communication
  • Secure IoT system
  • Security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biochemistry
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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