Wireless sensor networks (WSNs) comprise of motes interacting with the physical environment and collaborate among each other to provide data to the end-users. These motes are small devices that have limited processing, communication and memory. They are placed in the environment for long periods without any user assistance, hence, they are constrained by the amount of available energy too. Hence, all the operations in the WSNs need to be energy efficient. This technology has a lot of potential in the areas of military, health, environmental monitoring etc. However, one the major obstacle towards realizing the goal of widespread usage of WSNs is security.

Security is a difficult problem in wireless networks. As WSNs are a classification of wireless networks, therefore, most of the attacks that are applicable on wireless networks tend to apply on WSNs. However, as WSNs have certain distant characteristics the solutions that seem to be viable on wireless networks cannot work on the WSNs.

In 2003, Karlof et al, proposed a framework to analyze routing protocols in WSNs. The paper described the security vulnerabilities of prominent routing protocols of the time. The framework used consisted of the following:

Network assumption:
Radio links are insecure; attackers can eavesdrop on all radio transmissions; attackers can inject bits in the channel; attackers can replay previously overheard packets; attackers can deploy a few malicious nodes with similar hardware capabilities as legitimate nodes; attackers can physically access a few legit nodes and compromise them (not tamper resistant); compromised nodes will betray all store data; malicious nodes can collude to compromise network; malicious nodes can have hidden channel for collusion not accessible by legitimate nodes; attacker can jam radio links

Threat model:
It is based on the type of attacker: inside attacker or outside attacker. Further, it also depends on the type of machines available for the attacks: laptop-class attack or mote-class attack.

Spoofed/Altered/Replayed routing information; Selective forwarding attack; Sybil attack; Sinkhole attack; Wormholes; HELLO floods attack.

Countermeasures to:
Outside attacks; Sybil attacks; HELLO floods attack; Wormhole and Sinkhole attacks; Selective forwarding attack

The focus of our study is to exploit the vulnerabilities of various secure routing protocols for wireless sensor networks using the framework described above. We have selected a few publications on secure routing protocols from 2003 to 2009 and scrutinized them. It is evident that all of them fail under certain attacks while are resistant to others. Hence, there is no one-pill-wonder solution to the problem. Moreover, when designing a WSN application one needs to consider the application requirements after which one can choose the appropriate secure routing solution. This will ensure that it will protect your application against those attacks to which it is most prone.

Final Report: PDF

Papers in Report:

INSENS: Intrusion-Tolerant Routing for Wireless Sensor Networks

Security support for in-network processing in Wireless Sensor Networks

A Practical Secure Neighbor Verification Protocol for Wireless Sensor Networks

Secure Routing in Wireless Sensor Networks: Attacks and Countermeasures

SIGF: A Family of Configurable, Secure Routing Protocols for Wireless Sensor Networks

Other Resources:

Books & Articles

Find the best path to security in wireless sensor networks (Article)

Planned U.S. sensor network targets terror threats (Article)

Securing Sensor Networks with Public-key Encryption (Article)

Security for Wireless Sensor Networks (Book)

Security Solutions for Wireless Sensor Networks (Paper)


Collection of Conferences on Wireless Sensor Network Security

The Fifth IEEE International Workshop on Wireless and Sensor Networks Security (WSNS'09)

SASN: Workshop on Security of ad hoc and Sensor Networks (2003 - 2006)

Second ACM Conference on Wireless Network Security (WiSec '09)


CS 410/510: Advanced Sensor Networks (Spring 2009)

CMPSCI 791L Sensor Networks (Fall 2003)

Research (Groups/Places/PeoPLe)

PJT: Secure and Intrusion Tolerant Wireless Sensor Network Project

PPL: Adrian Perrig and his Research Projects

PPL: Anthony Wood and his Research Projects

G: Computer Laboratory Security Group (University of Cambridge)

G: Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST)

G: Wireless Sensor Networks Research Group

G: Ubiquitous Sensing and Security (UbiSec&Sens)