On the Race of Worms and Patches: Modeling the Spread of Information in Wireless Sensor Networks

Mohammad Sayad Haghighi, Sheng Wen, Yang Xiang, Barry G. Quinn, Wanlei Zhou

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    59 Citations (Scopus)


    Sensor networks are a branch of distributed ad hoc networks with a broad range of applications in surveillance and environment monitoring. In these networks, message exchanges are carried out in a multi-hop manner. Due to resource constraints, security professionals often use lightweight protocols, which do not provide adequate security. Even in the absence of constraints, designing a foolproof set of protocols and codes is almost impossible. This leaves the door open to the worms that take advantage of the vulnerabilities to propagate via exploiting the multi-hop message exchange mechanism. This issue has drawn the attention of security researchers recently. In this paper, we investigate the propagation pattern of information in wireless sensor networks based on an extended theory of epidemiology. We develop a geographical susceptible-infective model for this purpose and analytically derive the dynamics of information propagation. Compared with the previous models, ours is more realistic and is distinguished by two key factors that had been neglected before: 1) the proposed model does not purely rely on epidemic theory but rather binds it with geometrical and spatial constraints of real-world sensor networks and 2) it extends to also model the spread dynamics of conflicting information (e.g., a worm and its patch). We do extensive simulations to show the accuracy of our model and compare it with the previous ones. The findings show the common intuition that the infection source is the best location to start patching from, which is not necessarily right. We show that this depends on many factors, including the time it takes for the patch to be developed, worm/patch characteristics as well as the shape of the network.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number7534868
    Pages (from-to)2854-2865
    Number of pages12
    JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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