Abstract: Ad hoc low-power wireless networks are an exciting research direction in sensing and pervasive computing. Prior security work in this area has focused primarily on denial of communication at the routing or medium access control levels. This paper describes resource depletion attacks at the routing protocol layer, which permanently disable networks by quickly draining nodes’ battery power. These “Vampire” attacks are not specific to any specific protocol, but rather rely on the properties of many popular classes of routing protocols. We find that all examined protocols are susceptible to Vampire attacks, which are devastating, difficult to detect, and are easy to carry out using as few as one malicious insider sending only protocol-compliant messages. In the worst case, a single Vampire can increase network-wide energy usage by a factor of O(N), where N in the number of network nodes. We discuss methods to mitigate these types of attacks, including a new proof-of-concept protocol that provably bounds the damage caused by Vampires during the packet forwarding phase.
Keywords: Ad hoc networks, sensor networks, wireless networks.