Analyzing the vulnerability of wireless sensor networks to a malicious matched protocol attack

Thumbnail Image
O'Mahony, George D.
Harris, Philip J.
Murphy, Colin C.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Safety critical, Internet of Things (IoT) and space-based applications have recently begun to adopt wireless networks based on commercial off the shelf (COTS) devices and standardized protocols, which inherently establishes the security challenge of malicious intrusions. Malicious intrusions can cause severe consequences if undetected, including, complete denial of services. Particularly, any safety critical application requires all services to operate correctly, as any loss can be detrimental to safety and/or privacy. Therefore, in order for these safety critical services to remain operational and available, any and all intrusions need to be detected and mitigated. Whilst intrusion detection is not a new research area, new vulnerabilities in wireless networks, especially wireless sensor networks (WSNs), can be identified. In this paper, a specific vulnerability of WSNs is explored, termed here the matched protocol attack. This malicious attack uses protocol-specific structures to compromise a network using that protocol. Through attack exploration, this paper provides evidence that traditional spectral techniques are not sufficient to detect an intrusion using this style of attack. Furthermore, a ZigBee cluster head network, which co-exists with ISM band services, consisting of XBee COTS devices is utilized, along with a real time spectrum analyzer, to experimentally evaluate the effect of matched protocol interference on a realistic network model. Results of this evaluation are provided in terms of device errors and spectrum use. This malicious challenge is also examined through Monte-Carlo simulations. A potential detection technique, based on coarse inter-node distance measurements, which can theoretically be used to detect matched protocol interference and localize the origin of the source, is also suggested as a future progression of this work. Insights into how this attack style preys on some of the main security risks of any WSN (interoperability, device limitations and operation in hostile environments) are also provided.
Distance measurement , Protocols , Telecommunication security , Wireless sensor networks , Zigbee , Potential detection technique , Malicious challenge , WSN , Spectrum use , Device errors , Realistic network model , Matched protocol interference , Time spectrum analyzer , XBee COTS devices , ISM band services , ZigBee cluster head network , Attack exploration , Protocol-specific structures , Malicious attack , Specific vulnerability , Intrusion detection , Safety critical services , Safety critical application , Malicious intrusions , Security challenge , Standardized protocols , Shelf devices , Wireless networks , Space-based applications , Malicious matched protocol attack , Attack style preys , Security , Safety , Hardware , Interference , Attack , Co-existence , Detection , Distance , Inter-Node , Intrusion , IoT , Internet of Things (IoT) , Matched , Mitigation , PHY , Protocol , Space , Spectrum , WSN and ZigBee
G. D. O' Mahony,P. J. Harris,C. C. Murphy (2018) Analyzing the Vulnerability of Wireless Sensor Networks to a Malicious Matched Protocol Attack 2018 International Carnahan Conference on Security Technology (ICCST) Montreal, QC, Canada, 22-25 October. doi: 10.1109/CCST.2018.8585681
© 2018 IEEE. Personal use of this material is permitted. Permission from IEEE must be obtained for all other uses, in any current or future media, including reprinting/republishing this material for advertising or promotional purposes, creating new collective works, for resale or redistribution to servers or lists, or reuse of any copyrighted component of this work in other works.