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Intrusion Tolerance for NEST

This project investigates an intrusion tolerance approach for securing networks of resource-constrained devices. These devices have limited computational power, memory, communication bandwidth, and---most important of all---energy reserve. Existing security mechanisms used to protect general computer and network systems are too resource-intensive to be applicable. In this project, we focus on developing two enabling technologies for securing networks of resource-constrained devices: key management and intrusion detection.

We are developing low-cost key exchange and authentication protocols that rely exclusively on symmetric key cryptography. This includes "bootstrapping protocols" that enable devices to establish secure local links with their neighbors, in a short time period after the network is deployed. These will be complemented by authentication and key-exchange protocols for distant nodes, which will be based on secret sharing and communication via disjoint chains of intermediaries. A goal of this work is to provide a tunable degree of intrusion tolerance, with security guarantees even if some network nodes are compromised.

As for intrusion detection, we are researching low-overhead monitoring techniques for nodes to detect external attacks against themselves (for example, denial-of-service attacks) as well as for mutual monitoring among neighbor nodes. Some of these attacks cannot be prevented by using cryptographic solutions alone. These monitoring mechanisms could be used by various middleware services including routing and the SRI key exchange protocols described above to avoid non-trustworthy nodes. Possible responses to attacks against an individual node may include hibernation or other attempts to conserve resources, and the generation of alerts for other nodes or a base station.

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