Departmental Papers (CIS)

Date of this Version

July 2006

Document Type

Conference Paper


Copyright 2006 USENIX Association. Reprinted from 1st USENIX Workshop on Hot Topics in Security (HotSec 2006).


With the advent of low-power wireless sensor networks, a wealth of new applications at the interface of the real and digital worlds is emerging. A distributed computing platform that can measure properties of the real world, formulate intelligent inferences, and instrument responses, requires strong foundations in distributed computing, artificial intelligence, databases, control theory, and security.

Before these intelligent systems can be deployed in critical infrastructures such as emergency rooms and powerplants, the security properties of sensors must be fully understood. Existing wisdom has been to apply the traditional security models and techniques to sensor networks. However, sensor networks are not traditional computing devices, and as a result, existing security models and methods are ill suited. In this position paper, we take the first steps towards producing a comprehensive security model that is tailored for sensor networks. Incorporating work from Internet security, ubiquitous computing, and distributed systems, we outline security properties that must be considered when designing a secure sensor network. We propose challenges for sensor networks – security obstacles that, when overcome, will move us closer to decreasing the divide between computers and the physical world.



Date Posted: 20 August 2006

This document has been peer reviewed.