SECURE ROUTING IN WIRELESS
ATTACKS AND COUNTERMEASURES
• Sensor Networks vs Ad-Hoc Networks
• Problem statement
• Attacks on sensor network routing
• Future Enhancements
• Propose security goals for routing in wireless Sensor networks.
• Show how certain attacks against Ad-hoc networks and peer-to-peer
networks can be adapted into more powerful attacks against sensor
• Provide a list of attacks and their countermeasures.
• Sensor Network: Heterogeneous system consisting of tiny sensors and
actuators having some computing elements.
• When all the wireless sensor nodes are connected in a network, they form a
wireless sensor network.
• Hence, Wireless Sensor Networks are heterogeneous systems containing
many small devices called sensor nodes and actuators with general-purpose
• WSN’s facilitate monitoring and controlling of physical environments from
remote locations that could be difficult or dangerous to reach.
• Base Station:
– Point of centralized control
– Gateway to another network, powerful data processing unit, or point of
– More processing capability, memory & power
• Aggregation points: Node at which the messages are processed before
sending to base station.
Sensor N/w vs Ad-Hoc N/w
• Similarity: The dominant communication method in both is multi-hop
I. Ad-Hoc networks support routing between any pair of nodes, whereas
sensor networks support specialized communication pattern like Many-to-
one, One-to-many, Local communication.
II. Nodes in sensor networks are more resource constrained than Ad-Hoc
III. Higher level of trust relationship among sensor nodes. In-network
processing, aggregation, duplication elimination.
• Before discussing about each attack on routing protocol and its
countermeasure a clear view about routing security problem is required.
• Network Assumptions:
-> Insecure radio links.
-> Malicious node collude to attack the system.
-> No tamper resistance on nodes.
-> Adversary can access all key material, data, and code stored on the
• Trust Requirements:
-> Base stations are trustworthy.
-> Aggregation points not necessarily trustworthy.
• Threat Models : 2 types
-> Based on device capability
– Mote-class attacker Access to few sensor nodes.
– Laptop-class attacker Access to more powerful devices. Have more battery
power, better CPU, sensitive antenna, powerful radio Tx, etc.
-> Based on attacker type / attacker location
– Outside attacks attacker external to the network.
– Inside attacks Authorized node in the network is malicious/compromised.
• Security Goals
– Secure routing protocol should guarantee integrity, authenticity, availability
of messages in presence of adversaries.
– Secrecy of application data is must.
Attacks on sensor network routing
• By Spoofing, Altering, or Replaying
-> Attacker can create loops, attract or
repel network traffic, generate false
message, partition network, induce delay,
• Selective forwarding:
-> Malicious node forwards only some
messages, drop others.
-> Attacker tries to be on the actual path
of data flow, if it’s a neighboring node,
then it causes collision on each forwarded
packet of interest in order to include itself
on data flow path.
• Sinkhole Attacks:
– Main Reason : Specialized communication
patterns supported by wsn; All packets
have same destination i.e. base station.
– Adversary tries to attract traffic from a
particular area to pass through a
compromised node, thereby creating
sinkhole with adversary at the center.
– A compromised node may be made to look
attractive to neighbors in some routing
– Laptop class adversary provide a high
quality route to base station by
transmitting at high power which will cause
the neighboring nodes to forward packets
through the adversary.
• Sybil Attack:
-> Single node presents multiple identities to other
-> Significantly affect fault-tolerance schemes like
distributed storage, multi-path routing, topology
-> Threat to geographical routing protocols.
-> Transfer of packets from sender to receiver occurs
through a low latency route formed by creation of
-> This poses a threat to routing protocols which rely
heavily on geographic locations and proximity.
-> Selective forwarding and sinkhole attacks can be
launched from wormhole.
• HELLO flood attack:
-> Some protocols require that nodes
broadcast ‘HELLO’ packets to advertise
-> Laptop-class attacker can convince every
node that it is their neighbor by
transmitting at high power.
-> Target nodes attempts to reply, but the
adversary is out of range.
->This creates a state of confusion in the
Attack on LEACH protocol
• Low Energy Adaptive Clustering Hierarchy ("LEACH") is a TDMA-
based MAC protocol which is integrated with clustering in wireless sensor
• The goal of LEACH is to lower the energy consumption required to create and
maintain clusters in order to improve the life time of a wireless sensor network.
• In LEACH nodes transmit to cluster heads, and the cluster heads aggregate and
compress the data and forward it to the base station(sink).
• Since nodes choose a cluster-head based on received signal strength, an
adversary can disable the entire network by using HELLO flood attack.
• Every node will choose the adversary as its cluster head and the adversary now
can use selective forwarding attack to modify the node data.
• Simple countermeasure like changing the cluster-head for each round will easily
be compromised by Sybil attack.
• Outsider attack and link layer security
-> Outside attackers can be reduced by link layer security and authentication using
a global shared key.
-> Sybil, Sinkhole, Selective forwarding attacks can be restricted as node doesn’t
accept identity of adversary and the adversary is prevented from joining
-> Ineffective against Insider attacks like wormhole, Hello flood attacks.
• Sybil attack
-> Every node shares a unique symmetric key with the base station.
-> Then two nodes generate pair-wise shared secret key between them (Needham
– Schroeder symmetric key exchange) for ‘Identity verification’
-> Limit the number of neighbors for a node prevent adversary from
establishing shared keys with everyone.
• HELLO flood attack
-> Verification of bidirectionality of a link before taking meaningful action using Identity
-> Nodes are connected to limited verified neighbors, so even with a high sensitive
adversary the compromise of nodes is not on a large segment of network.
• Wormhole and Sinkhole attacks
-> Very difficult to defend when two are used in combination as wormholes use out-of-
bound channels invisible to networks.
-> Whereas sinkholes are difficult to defend against protocols using advertising
-> Good protocol design is required to avoid these attacks.
Eg: Geographic routing protocol can be used to avoid wormhole and sinkhole attacks as
it is a location based protocol.
>> Initiation is not from base station and the traffic is naturally routed towards physical
location of base station hence difficult to create a wormhole and sinkhole.
• Selective forwarding
-> Use Multipath Routing; messages routed over disjoint paths.
-> Messages routed on n disjoint paths protected against selective forwarding offer
probabilistic protection when over n nodes are compromised.
• This survey on attacks and countermeasures in wireless sensor network
routing protocols will help in better design of routing protocols at
• If design of routing protocols satisfies the proposed security goals then
effective defending against adversaries will be achieved.
• Different security problems in sensor networks.
• Different types of attacks on the sensor networks from inside attackers
and outside attackers.
• Countermeasures to avoid the occurrence of these attacks.
• Hence, Protocols developed for routing in wireless sensor networks must
be designed with security features in view.
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Attacks and countermeasures, University of california, Berkeley, IEEE 2003.
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Sensor network: Survey, VelTech group of institution, IJSCE, March 2013.
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Wireless Sensor Networks, Department of CSE Sri Guru Granth Sahib World
University, IJARCSSE, April 2013.
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countermeasures in WSN, St. Joseph’s College of Engineering, Chennai, Tamil
Nadu, IPASJ, January 2014.
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Peer Systems (IPTPS '0202). March 2002.