Vulnerabilities of massive MIMO systems against pilot contamination attacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We consider a single-cell massive MIMO system in which a base station (BS) with a large number of antennas transmits simultaneously to several single-antenna users in the presence of an attacker. The BS acquires the channel state information (CSI) based on uplink pilot transmissions. In this work, we demonstrate the vulnerability of CSI estimation phase to malicious attacks. For that purpose, we study two attack models. In the first model, the attacker aims at minimizing the sum-rate of downlink transmissions by contaminating the uplink pilots. In the second model, the attacker exploits its in-band full-duplex capabilities to generate jamming signals in both the CSI estimation and data transmission phases. We study these attacks under two downlink power allocation strategies when the attacker knows and does not know the locations of the BS and users. The formulated problems are solved using stochastic optimization, Lagrangian minimization, and game-theoretic methods. A closed-form solution for a special case of the problem is obtained. Furthermore, we analyze the achievable individual secrecy rates under a pilot contamination attack, and provide an upper bound on these rates. Our results indicate that the proposed attacks degrade the throughput of a massive MIMO system by more than 50%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Oct 8 2017


  • Active attack
  • Massive MIMO
  • Physical layer security
  • Pilot contamination
  • Stochastic optimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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