PhD Theses: Monitoring the health and integrity of Wireless Sensor Networks

Rodrigo Vieira Steiner

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) will play a major role in the Internet of Things collecting the data that will support decision-making and enable the automation of many applications. Nevertheless, the introduction of these devices into our daily life raises serious concerns about their integrity. Therefore, at any given point, one must be able to tell whether or not a node has been compromised. Moreover, it is crucial to understand how the compromise of a particular node or set of nodes may affect the network operation. In this thesis, we present a framework to monitor the health and integrity of WSNs that allows us to detect compromised devices and comprehend how they might impact a network’s performance. We start by investigating the use of attestation to identify malicious nodes and advance the state of the art by exploring limitations of existing mechanisms. Firstly, we tackle effectiveness and scalability by combining attestation with measurements inspection and show that the right combination of both schemes can achieve high accuracy whilst significantly reducing power consumption. Secondly, we propose a novel stochastic software-based attestation approach that relaxes a fundamental and yet overlooked assumption made in the literature significantly reducing time and energy consumption while improving the detection rate of honest devices. Lastly, we propose a mathematical model to represent the health of a WSN according to its abilities to perform its functions. Our model combines the knowledge regarding compromised nodes with additional information that quantifies the importance of each node. In this context, we propose a new centrality measure and analyse how well existing metrics can rank the importance each sensor node has on the network connectivity. We demonstrate that while no measure is invariably better, our proposed metric outperforms the others in the vast majority of cases.

Ensuring the resilience of wireless sensor networks to malicious data injections through measurements inspectionPhD Theses:

Vittorio Illiano

Malicious data injections pose a severe threat to the systems based on Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) since they give the attacker control over the measurements, and on the system’s status and response in turn. Malicious measurements are particularly threatening when used to spoof or mask events of interest, thus eliciting or preventing desirable responses. Spoofing and masking attacks are particularly difficult to detect since they depict plausible behaviours, especially if multiple sensors have been compromised and collude to inject a coherent set of malicious measurements. Previous work has tackled the problem through measurements inspection, which analyses the inter-measurements correlations induced by the physical phenomena. However, these techniques consider simplistic attacks and are not robust to collusion. Moreover, they assume highly predictable patterns in the measurements distribution, which are invalidated by the unpredictability of events. We design a set of techniques that effectively detect malicious data injections in the presence of sophisticated collusion strategies, when one or more events manifest. Moreover, we build a methodology to characterise the likely compromised sensors. We also design diagnosis criteria that allow us to distinguish anomalies arising from malicious interference and faults. In contrast with previous work, we test the robustness of our methodology with automated and sophisticated attacks, where the attacker aims to evade detection. We conclude that our approach outperforms state-of-the-art approaches. Moreover, we estimate quantitatively the WSN degree of resilience and provide a methodology to give a WSN owner an assured degree of resilience by automatically designing the WSN deployment. To deal also with the extreme scenario where the attacker has compromised most of the WSN, we propose a combination with software attestation techniques, which are more reliable when malicious data is originated by a compromised software, but also more expensive, and achieve an excellent trade-off between cost and resilience.

The Intel ICRI in Sustainable Connected Cities

ICRI_logoThe Intel ICRI in Sustainable Connected Cities is a joint project between Intel, Imperial College London, and University College London. Its activities are concerned with how to enhance the social, economic and environmental well being of cities by advancing compute, communication and social constructs to deliver innovations in system architecture, algorithms and societal participation.

Our work within the initiative concerns mainly the security and resilience of Wireless Sensor Networks.