Open Access

MAC Security and Security Overhead Analysis in the IEEE 802.15.4 Wireless Sensor Networks

EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking20062006:093830

DOI: 10.1155/WCN/2006/93830

Received: 11 October 2005

Accepted: 17 May 2006

Published: 3 October 2006


Sensor networks have many applications. However, with limited resources such as computation capability and memory, they are vulnerable to many kinds of attacks. The IEEE 802.15.4 specification defines medium access control (MAC) layer and physical layer for wireless sensor networks. In this paper, we propose a security overhead analysis for the MAC layer in the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless sensor networks. Furthermore, we survey security mechanisms defined in the specification including security objectives, security suites, security modes, encryption, authentication, and so forth. Then, security vulnerabilities and attacks are identified. Some security enhancements are proposed to improve security and to prevent these attacks such as same-nonce attack, denial-of-service attack, reply-protection attack, ACK attack, and so forth. Our results show that, for example, with 128-bit key length and 100 MIPS, encryption overhead is 10.28 s per block, and with 100 MIPS and 1500-byte payload, the encryption overhead is as high as 5782.5 s.


Authors’ Affiliations

Department of Computer Science, The University of Alabama
Institute of Communications Engineering, National Sun Yat-Sen University
Department of Computer Science, Lamar University
Department of Electrical Engineering, Lamar University
Equifax Inc.


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© Yang Xiao et al. 2006

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.