A Comparison Between RSA And ECC In Wireless Sensor Networks

DOI : 10.17577/IJERTV2IS3758

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A Comparison Between RSA And ECC In Wireless Sensor Networks

Dona Maria Mani,

M.Tech Student(CSE),

Viswajyothi College of Engineering and Technology, Muvattupuzha, Kerala, India.

Nishamol P H,

Assistant Professor(CSE), ViswajyothiCollege of Engineering and Technology,

Muvattupuzha, Kerala, India.

Abstract Wireless sensor networks consists of autonomous sensor nodes attached to one or more base stations. As wireless sensor networks continue to grow, they become vulnerable to attacks and hence the need for effective security mechanisms. Identification of suitable cryptography for wireless sensor networks is an important challenge due to limitations of energy, computation capability and storage resources of the sensor nodes. Symmetric based cryptographic schemes do not scale well when the number of sensor nodes increases. Hence public key based schemes are widely used.Here we present a brief overview of some attacks and countermeasures and also discuss two efficient public-key based algorithms, RSA and Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) that are widely deployed in Wireless Sensor Networks. We found ECC to have significant advantage over RSA as it reduces computation time and also the amount of data transmitted and stored.

Key Terms- confidentiality, integrity, authentication, data freshness, RSA, ECC.


    Wireless sensor networks(WSN)consists of spatially distributed autonomous sensors to monitor physical or environmental conditions, such as temperature, sound, pressure, etc. and to cooperatively pass their data through the network to a main location. These sensor nodes generally have low computational power, limited data transmission and power constraints. WSNs are increasingly present in our days and can be found in environmental area (climatic measurements, presence of smoke), health area (measurement of vital signs, temperature), home automation (motion sensor and image sensor) and other areas. They have no xed structure, and in many cases there is no monitoring station of sensor nodes during the operational life of the network. So WSNs must have mechanisms for self- conguration and adaptation in case of failure, inclusion

    or exclusion of a sensor node. Fig.1. illustrates a wireless sensor network with many sensor nodes and a single base station.

    Fig.1. Wireless Sensor Network

    Security requirements of WSNs are similar to conventional computer networks.Any security solution to sensor networks must preserve confidentiality, integrity, authentication, and freshnessof data within the network.

    Data Confidentiality ensures that the sensor readings remain secure and never leak outside the network under no circumstances.The standard approach for preventing this from happening is to use encryption, using a secret key that is known only to the intended receivers. It ensures that the data is protected from unauthorized persons.

    Integrity of data in any network ensuresthe accuracy of data in thatnetwork. This implies that data between thesender and the receiver is not altered in transit by an adversary.

    Authenticationprevents unauthorized access to the network. Without authentication mechanisms in place, an attacker can easily access the network and inject malicious messages into the network without the knowledge of the receiver.

    Data Freshnessensures that no adversary replays old messages. There are two types of freshness: weak freshness,which provides partial message ordering, but carries no delay information, and strong freshness, which provides a total order on a request-response pair, and allows for delayestimation. Weak freshness is required by sensor measurements, while strong freshness is useful for time synchronization within the network.

    Not all security solutions designed for conventional computer networks can be implemented directly in WSNs due to the limitations in WSNs. For a long time, it was believed that the public key cryptography was not suitable for WSNs since it require high processing power, but later studies of encryption algorithms based on curves veried the feasibility of these techniques in WSNs.

    The cryptographic algorithm RSA is currently the most used among the asymmetric algorithms that takes advantage of the difculty in factoring large prime numbers. Standardized by NIST, this algorithm is widely used in transactions on the Internet. The Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) based algorithm was created in 80s, and is based on the difculty of solving the discrete logarithm problem on elliptic curves. Despite its complexity, the algorithm based on elliptic curve proves to be efficient. This paper describes some important attacks and countermeasures in sensor networks and also two main public key based cryptographic techniques, RSA and ECC,used in sensor networks.


Routing protocols currently used in sensor networks do not consider security, and utilize the limited processing capabilities of sensor nodes. In conventional networks, message availability is guaranteed with the help of secure routing protocolswhereasintegrity,authenticity, andcondentiality of messages are managed by end-to- end security mechanisms such as SSH or SSL. End-to- end security mechanisms can be adopted in conventional networks since intermediate routers do not have access

to the content of messages. However, in sensor networks, these are difficult to deploysince intermediate nodes need direct access to the content of the messages.

  1. Attacks

    Sensor nodes are vulnerable to the following


    • Spoofing, altering, or replaying of routing informationIn this attack the routing information that is exchanged between nodes is the major target. This may result in creation of routing loops, attraction or repulsion of network trac, extension or shortening of routes, generation of wrong error messages, partition of network, increase inend-to-endlatency,etc.

    • Selective forwarding-In a selective forwarding attack, compromised nodes may refuse to forward certain messages.Instead the messagesare simply dropped, so that they are not propagated any further.

    • Sinkhole attack – In a sinkhole attack, the goal of the attacker is to attract nearly all the trac from a particular area through anattacked node, creating a sinkhole with the attacker at the center.

    • Wormholes-In this attack [1] an intrudergathers messages received in one part of network and replays to a different part of the network. An example of this attack is a single node that exists between two other nodesforwarding messages between two of them.

    • Sybil attack- These attacks are a great threat to the geographic routing protocols.In a Sybil attack [2], a single node presents multiple identities to other nodes in the network.The effectiveness of fault-tolerant schemes such as distributed storage, dispersity [3],multipath routing [4], and topology maintenance [5,6] are significantly reduced due to this attack. The adversary can be in more than one place at once.

    • HELLO ood attack- In manyconventional routing protocols, nodes reveal their identity to their neighbors, by broadcasting HELLO

packets. A node receiving such a packet is under the assumption that it is in the normal range of the sender. It is possible for anattackerbroadcasting useful information and having large transmission power to convince every node in the network that the adversary is its neighbor.


Link layer security mechanisms can help eadicate some of the vulnerabilities in sensor networks.Link layer encryption and authentication, identity verication, bidirectional link verication, multipath routing, and authenticated broadcast can protect sensor network routing protocols against outsiders, bogus routing information, sybil attacks, HELLO oods, and acknowledgement spoong. It is feasible to use existing protocols with these mechanisms. Sinkhole attacks and wormholes pose signicant challenges to secure routing protocol design and it is unlikely that there exist eective countermeasures against these attacks. It is crucial to design routing protocols in which these attacks are meaningless. Geographic routing protocols are one class of protocols that makes these attacks ineffective.


There are several cryptographic techniques that are used to secure sensor networks. The first step is to establish cryptographic system with secure keys for secure communication. Messages exchanged between sensor nodes must be properly encryptedand authenticated. This requires agreement between the communicating nodes on keys for performing encryption and authentication. Resource constraints in sensor nodes like limited computational power has made many key agreement schemes, like public-key and key pre- distribution,that were used in traditional networks unsuitable for sensor networks. Also pre-distribution of secret keys for all pairs of nodes is not economically affordable due to the large memory requirements.

Modern research has tried to handle the key establishment and management problem network-wide by use of a shared unique symmetric key between pairs of nodes. However, this also does not scale well as the number of nodes grows [7]. Hence public key based cryptographic techniques were used.

    1. SA algorithm

      A method to implement a public key cryptosystem whose security is based on the difculty of factoring large prime numbers was proposed in [8].RSA stands for Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman, who first publicly described the algorithm in 1977. Through this technique it is possible to encrypt data and create digital signatures.It was so successful that today RSA public key algorithm is themost widely used in the world. The encryption scheme is as follows:

      med= m(modn) (1)

      foran integer m. The encryption and decryption schemes are presented in Algorithms 1 and 2.

      The decryption works as follows:

      cd= (me)d= m(modn) (2)

      The safety lies in the difculty ofcomputing clear text a m from a ciphertext cme mod n and public parameters n(e).

      Algorithm 1: RSA Encryption Input: RSA public key (n, e) Plain text m [0, n-1]

      Output: Cipher text c


      1. Compute c = me mod n

      2. Return c.


Algorithm 2: Decryption RSA

Input: Public key (n,e),Private key d, Cipher text c

Output: Plain text m


  1. Compute m = cdmod n

  2. Return m.


    1. lgorithm based on curves

      The main idea of the algorithms based on curves is to identify a set of points of an elliptic curvefor which the discrete logarithm problem is difficult to manipulate.Elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) is an approach to public-key cryptography based on the algebraic structure of elliptic curves over finite fields. Elliptic curve is a plane defined by the following equation

      y2=x3+ax+b (3)

      The use of elliptic curves in cryptography was suggested independently byNealKoblitz and Victor S. Miller in 1985.Cryptosystemsbased on elliptic curvesachieve the same level ofsecurity such as RSA [9], using minor keys, and thus consuming less memory andprocessor resources. This makes them ideal for use in smart cards and otherenvironments where storage, time and energy are limited.

      The number of applications that are using elliptic curve algorithmsis increasing considerablyrecentlydue to the standardization performed by NIST. The algorithmsbased on curves are standardized according to the ANSI X9.62, FIPS 186-2, IEEE 1363-2000and ISO / IEC 15946-2.

      According to Amin [11] public key encryption includes algorithms for encryption, digital signatures and key agreement.Key management algorithms are used to share secret keys, encryption algorithms enable a condential communication and digital signature algorithms authenticate a participant communication as well as validate the integrity of the message.The efciency of this algorithm is based on nding a discrete logarithm of a random elementthat is part of an elliptic curve. The efciency of ECCcryptographic algorithm with key sizes of approximately 160 bits is the same as thatobtained usingthe RSA algorithm with 1024 bit key.

      The procedure of decryption and encryption through elliptic curve isanalogous to ElGamalencryption scheme described in algorithms 3 and 4. The pure text m is rst represented as a point M, and then encrypted by the addition to kQ, where k is an integer chosen randomly, and Q is the public key.

      Algorithm 3:ElGamal elliptic curve encryption

      Input: Parameters eld of elliptic curve ( p, E, P, n), Public key Q, Plain text m Output: Cipher text(C1, C2)


      1. Represent the message m as a point M in E(Fp)

      2. Select k R[1,n-1]

      3. Compute C1= kP

      4. Compute C2= M+ kQ.

      5. Return(C1, C2)


Algorithm 4:ElGamal elliptic curvedecryption

Input: Parameters eld of elliptic curve

( p, E, P, n), Private key d, Cipher text (C1, C2)

Output: Plain text m


  1. Compute M = C2- dC1and m from M.

  2. Return m.


The transmitter transmits the points

C1=kP andC2=M + kQ to receiver who use his privatekey d to compute:

dC1= d(kP)=k(dP)=kQ, (4)

and then calculating M= C2- kQ. An attacker who wants to read of M need to calculate kQ.Compared to RSA, ECChas small key size, low memory usage etc. Hence it has attracted attention as a security solution for wireless networks.


Wireless sensor networks are increasingly prone to vulnerabilities when the network grows in size. Public

key based cryptographic schemes were introduced to remove the drawbacks of symmetric based approaches. We compared two schemes ECC and RSAand found that ECC is more advantageous compared to RSA due to low memory usage,low CPU consumption and shorter key size compared to RSA. ECC 160 bits is two times better than RSA 1024 bits when code sizeand power consumption are the factors of consideration. Tests were performed in 8051 and AVR platforms as in [12]. ECC 160 bits uses four times less energy than RSA 1024 bits in Mica2dot as in [13].Recently a new scheme called Multivariate Quadratic Almost Group was proposed which showed significant improvements over RSA and ECC.


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