Scalable and efficient key management for heterogeneous sensor networks

Firdous Kausar, Sajid Hussain*, Laurence T. Yang, Ashraf Masood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


As typical wireless sensor networks (WSNs) have resource limitations, predistribution of secret keys is possibly the most practical approach for secure network communications. In this paper, we propose a key management scheme based on random key predistribution for heterogeneous wireless sensor networks (HSNs). As large-scale homogeneous networks suffer from high costs of communication, computation, and storage requirements, the HSNs are preferred because they provide better performance and security solutions for scalable applications in dynamic environments. We consider hierarchical HSN consisting of a small number high-end sensors and a large number of low-end sensors. To address storage overhead problem in the constraint sensor nodes, we incorporate a key generation process, where instead of generating a large pool of random keys, a key pool is represented by a small number of generation keys. For a given generation key and a publicly known seed value, a keyed-hash function generates a key chain; these key chains collectively make a key pool. As dynamic network topology is native to WSNs, the proposed scheme allows dynamic addition and removal of nodes. This paper also reports the implementation and the performance of the proposed scheme on Crossbow's MicaZ motes running TinyOS. The results indicate that the proposed scheme can be applied efficiently in resource-constrained sensor networks. We evaluate the computation and storage costs of two keyed-hash algorithms for key chain generation, HMAC-SHA1 and HMAC-MD5.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-65
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Supercomputing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Authentication
  • Heterogeneous sensor networks
  • Key management
  • Random key predistribution
  • Security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture

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