Proposal for secure data format

Hello all,

As Ruuvi Node and Ruuvi Dongle are moving forward, we’re re-evaluating the security needs of RuuviTag data.

Up to this point accessing data from RuuviTags has required physical proximity due to limited range of BLE transmissions, but once the data is sent to a default server maintained by Ruuvi pretty much anyone from anywhere can access the data.

Security threats

  1. Violating user privacy
    – Especially the movement data can be used to track lifestyle of individuals if the owner of the RuuviTag is known. For example a tag on bed tells when user went to sleep, how peacefully they slept and when they woke up.
  1. Spoofed data
    – If user leaves a tag monitoring a remote location someone could trigger a false alarm by sending data which shows that water pipes are freezing etc.

  2. Denial of service
    – If someone can spam invalid data the invalid data may lead to excess bandwidth or storage usage. If data is downsampled, the value remaining after downsampling could be one of the spam values.

Protection against threats

  1. Encrypting tag data
    – The tag data is encoded with AES128 using a password and tag ID as the encryption key. For details about the encrypted data format please see this proposal. The attacker must have had physical access to scan the ID as well as know the user-configurable password.

  2. Checksum on decrypted data, measurement counter
    – The tag data contains a checksum of decrypted data, chances of anyone making a random string of bytes which matches the checksum is 1/256. Additionally the measurement counter value must be known by spoofer or spoof is detected by jumps in data.

  3. Writing data to Ruuvi servers requires knowing MAC address
    – The data is sent and queried by MAC addresses of the tags, which is a 46-bit random number. It is possible to query the address space to find some tags and start spamming them, or if the target MAC address is known it can be spammed. Any ideas on how to protect against this sort of attack? One solution is to use a dedicated server with access control, but we’d like to offer free (as in beer and speech) alternatives.

As always, we need to make compromises between security, convenience and pricing. Please let us know your ideas and feedback on this security model, at this point everything can be adjusted to meet the needs of the community.


I took my self the freedom to link back to a competitor.
I think they are on the right track… "but not free as in beer and the pricing could be better :slight_smile: "

Secure beaconing is already provided by Eddystone EID and eTLM which are a part of the Eddystone firmware for Ruuvi’s. Therefore the use case for such secure beaconing is already covered.

The model also seems to require contact to their servers:

Can I decipher the real beacon UUID, Major, Minor on the device, or do we need to contact the server to get the actual beacon identifiers?

You need to resolve the real values with our API or by using our SDK to get the value either on the fly or cached in advance locally.

We want to keep the beacons useable in a non-connected environment.

Locking the firmware might be a reasonable additional precaution to protect the user-configured passwords, we’ll consider it.

IMO complete protection against DOS, is just about impossible, but encryption and checksum of the data provide some protection against DOS among other security threats.
The MAC addresses are broadcasted, so one would have to have some sort of algorithm changing the MAC address at some interval and vice versa on the receiving end.
The crudest and the most difficult to protect from type of DOS I can think of, is having a sufficiently powerful radio signal, either by accident or out of malice, at the 2,4 GHz frequency range. Military etc use frequency hopping to circumvent this vector, but this isn’t an option as long as Bluetooth is used.

I present this discussion here (rather than on the GitHub see in particular issues #26 and #28 ) so as to solicit responses from a larger user community. I realize some of this information is redundant and more specific detail is located at GitHub.

The bluetooth advertising pack restricts the payload size.

The current proposal includes:

  1. Packet format number: 1 byte
  2. Temperature in 0.005 degrees Centigrade 2 bytes
  3. Humidity in 0.0025% 2 bytes
  4. Atmospheric pressure in 1Pa 2 bytes
  5. Power information, ie battery voltage in milli-volts and transmission power in 2dBm 2 bytes
  6. Movement counter, incremented by the accelerometer 2 bytes
  7. Measure Sequence number 2 bytes
  8. reserved 2 bytes
  9. CRC8 1 byte
  10. MAC address 6 bytes are allocated because Apple APIs do not provide it

I offer the following observations:
A) Accelerometer values should be provided.
B) Experience with RawV2 format leads to the understanding that a 1 byte movement counter is too small. Even small movements increment the counter by 6 to 12. This causes the counter to wrap too quickly. Two bytes should be sufficient
C) Measurement sequence number of 2 bytes at a transmission period as used by RawV2_slow of 6.240 seconds causes this to wrap after only 4.7 days
D)Partial byte fields are sometimes appropriate depending on the range of values being represented as seen in the power field. Combining bits from different bytes to create a field is not difficult, nor is biasing a field to reduce the value range.
E) Some fields are unnecessarily(even un-scientifically) precise due to the accuracy of the currently used sensors. Both temperature and humidity report varying values from one sample to the next even under static conditions. This precludes interpreting small changes as a trend. Anticipating that alternate sensors might be used in the future it is unreasonable to expect to provide more than tenths of a degree or tenths of a percent of humidity of precision.

I offer the following changes to the proposal:
I) Providing Accelerometer values which represent the orientation of the tag. With a range of 180 degrees, a field width of 5 bits for each of 3 axis would provide a precision of 5.6 degrees while requiring only 15 bits (i.e. less than 2 bytes) which are currently “reserved”.
As seen with battery and TX power it is not that difficult to extract bits and combine them.

Ia)The MAC address for bluetooth devices requires the high order 2 bits always be set. These 2 bits could be used for data with the receiver reconstructing the MAC address with a simple MAC[0] |= MAC[0] + 0xC0. Using the 2 high order bits of the MAC and the remaining bit of “reserved” would increase precision of accelerometer to precision of 2.7 degrees.

II) measurement sequence number: increasing it to 3 bytes may be more than is necessary as with a RawV2_fast period of 1 second would wrap in xxx days.

III) Humidity which is in the range of 0…100 would better be reported in tenths of a percent requiring a max of 0x3E8. This requires only 10 bits allowing the additional 4 bits to be used to extend measurement sequence number.

IV) Up to an additional 4 bits could be obtained by restricting the “currently supported” format codes to use only the second nibble (bits 4-7) or first nibble using 8X for this secure format. This would allow for an additional 7 future formats for a total of 16 active formats. This requires the receiver to mask the first byte of all packets with to determine the format, a very simple operation. Existing applications which support previous formats, without the masking operation, would not match this and future formats which they don’t support.

V) Battery voltage, although interesting, is really worthless for the ultra low power used by the Ruuvi tags. It has been shown to be unable to predict failure. Tags with values seemingly high enough when encountering a significant reduction in temperature stop functioning and tags with very low values continue to operate.

VI) Temperature precision should also be reduced to tenths of a degree centigrade (.18 degrees F).

Bits from item IV, V and VI could be better used to extend other fields or provide fields for future sensors.

I look forward to your responses.
Revised 11/11/19 18:54EST

1 Like

Thanks for the comprehensive feedback. Can you provide an example of the data format? Please keep in mind that the actual encrypted portion can be only 16 bytes long.

This has been improved a lot ever since the voltage measurement was synchronized to radio activity, but it is true that tags which experience large temperature swings can be unpredictable.