Efficient hybrid security mechanisms for heterogeneous sensor networks

Patrick Traynor, Raju Kumar, Heesook Choi, Guohong Cao, Sencun Zhu, Thomas La Porta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Many applications that make use of sensor networks require secure communication. Because asymmetric-key solutions are difficult to implement in such a resource-constrained environment, symmetric-key methods coupled with a priori key distribution schemes have been proposed to achieve the goals of data secrecy and integrity. These approaches typically assume that all nodes are similar in terms of capabilities and, hence, deploy the same number of keys in all sensors in a network to provide the aforementioned protections. In this paper, we demonstrate that a probabilistic unbalanced distribution of keys throughout the network that leverages the existence of a small percentage of more capable sensor nodes can not only provide an equal level of security, but also reduce the consequences of node compromise. To fully characterize the effects of the unbalanced key management system, we design, implement, and measure the performance of a complementary suite of key establishment protocols known as LIGER. Using their predeployed keys, nodes operating in isolation from external networks can securely and efficiently establish keys with each other. Should resources such as a backhaul link to a key distribution center (KDC) become available, networks implementing LIGER automatically incorporate and benefit from such facilities. Detailed experiments demonstrate that the unbalanced distribution in combination with the multimodal LIGER suite offers a robust and practical solution to the security needs in sensor networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-676
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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