Title page for ETD etd-05052008-110318


Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Huang, An-Lun
Email alanh@tuks.co.za
URN etd-05052008-110318
Document Title Security primitives for ultra-low power sensor nodes in wireless sensor networks
Degree MEng (Computer Engineering)
Department Computer Engineering
Supervisor
Advisor Name Title
Prof W T Penzhorn Co-Supervisor
Prof G Hancke Supervisor
Keywords
  • ultra-low power
  • security
  • cryptographic primitives
  • Message Authentication Code (MAC)
  • Wireless Sensor Network (WSN)
  • OCB
  • UMAC
Date 2007-09-05
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
The concept of wireless sensor network (WSN) is where tiny devices (sensor nodes), positioned fairly close to each other, are used for sensing and gathering data from its environment and exchange information through wireless connections between these nodes (e.g. sensor nodes distributed through out a bridge for monitoring the mechanical stress level of the bridge continuously). In order to easily deploy a relatively large quantity of sensor nodes, the sensor nodes are typically designed for low price and small size, thereby causing them to have very limited resources available (e.g. energy, processing power).

Over the years, different security (cryptographic) primitives have been proposed and refined aiming at utilizing modern processor’s power e.g. 32-bit or 64-bit operation, architecture such as MMX (Multi Media Extension) and etc. In other words, security primitives have targeted at high-end systems (e.g. desktop or server) in software implementations. Some hardware-oriented security primitives have also been proposed. However, most of them have been designed aiming only at large message and high speed hashing, with no power consumption or other resources (such as memory space) taken into considerations. As a result, security mechanisms for ultra-low power (<500µW) devices such as the wireless sensor nodes must be carefully selected or designed with their limited resources in mind.

The objective of this project is to provide implementations of security primitives (i.e. encryption and authentication) suitable to the WSN environment, where resources are extremely limited. The goal of the project is to provide an efficient building block on which the design of WSN secure routing protocols can be based on, so it can relieve the protocol designers from having to design everything from scratch.

This project has provided three main contributions to the WSN field.

 Provides analysis of different tradeoffs between cryptographic security strength and performances, which then provide security primitives suitable for the needs in a WSN environment. Security primitives form the link layer security and act as building blocks for higher layer protocols i.e. secure routing protocol.

 Implements and optimizes several security primitives in a low-power microcontroller (TI MSP430F1232) with very limited resources (256 bytes RAM, 8KB flash program memory). The different security primitives are compared according to the number of CPU cycles required per byte processed, specific architectures required (e.g. multiplier, large bit shift) and resources (RAM, ROM/flash) required. These comparisons assist in the evaluation of its corresponding energy consumption, and thus the applicability to wireless sensor nodes.

 Apart from investigating security primitives, research on various security protocols designed for WSN have also been conducted in order to optimize the security primitives for the security protocols design trend. Further, a new link layer security protocol using optimized security primitives is also proposed. This new protocol shows an improvement over the existing link layer security protocols.

Security primitives with confidentiality and authenticity functions are implemented in the TinyMote sensor nodes from the Technical University of Vienna in a wireless sensor network. This is to demonstrate the practicality of the designs of this thesis in a real-world WSN environment.

This research has achieved ultra-low power security primitives in wireless sensor network with average power consumption less than 3.5 µW (at 2 second packet transmission interval) and 700 nW (at 5 second packet transmission interval). The proposed link layer security protocol has also shown improvements over existing protocols in both security and power consumption.

© University of Pretoria 2005

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