Proximity-based attacks in wireless sensor networks
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The nodes in wireless sensor networks (WSNs) utilize the radio frequency (RF) channel to communicate. Given that the RF channel is the primary communication channel, many researchers have developed techniques for securing that channel. However, the RF channel is not the only interface into a sensor. The sensing components, which are primarily designed to sense characteristics about the outside world, can also be used (or misused) as a communication (side) channel. In our work, we aim to characterize the side channels for various sensory components (i.e., light sensor, acoustic sensor, and accelerometer). While previous work has focused on the use of these side channels to improve the security and performance of a WSN, we seek to determine if the side channels have enough capacity to potentially be used for malicious activity. Specifically, we evaluate the feasibility and practicality of the side channels using today's sensor technology and illustrate that these channels have enough capacity to enable the transfer of common, well-known malware. Given that a significant number of modern robotic systems depend on the external side channels for navigation and environment-sensing, they become potential targets for side-channel attacks. Therefore, we demonstrate this relatively new form of attack which exploits the uninvestigated but predominantly used side channels to trigger malware residing in real-time robotic systems such as the iRobot Create. The ultimate goal of our work is to show the impact of this new class of attack and also to motivate the need for an intrusion detection system (IDS) that not only monitors the RF channel, but also monitors the values returned by the sensory components.