Secure localization and location verification in wireless sensor networks: a survey

By Samih Eisa, Miguel Pardal / 15-02-2022 / In categories Blog

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Secure localization and location verification in wireless sensor networks


Zeng, Yingpei et al. “Secure localization and location verification in wireless sensor networks: a survey.” The Journal of Supercomputing 64 (2010): 685-701.

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) consist of small, low power, and low cost sensors that are distributed to monitor physical conditions of the environments and forward the collected data to central base station nodes (BS). The locations of the sensor nodes are important to ensure the locations of the detected events by the nodes. WSNs have been used in various critical applications such as environmental monitoring, battlefield surveillance, industrial process monitoring, and location-based authentication. In most of these applications, the sensors are deployed in harsh and hostile environments, making the nodes vulnerable to several threats and network attacks.

With respect to sensors locations, there are two main issues:

  • Threats or attackers may attack the localization process of the sensor nodes to make them estimate their locations incorrectly.
  • Sensor nodes may get compromised; and therefore, the BS may not trust their reported locations.

The survey reviews available solutions for secure localization and location verification in WSNs. It describes possible attacks, provides classifications of existing solutions, and presents results of the performance evaluation of the solutions.

Secure Localization

Localization is the process of estimating locations of the sensor nodes. It includes two steps. First, the information for localization is collected, such as distances between nodes (neighbours or multihop-away nodes) and angles between the nodes. Second, the locations are estimated using computation algorithms, such as trilateration, multilateration, and triangulation.

Secure localization protects insecure localization systems from possible attacks and vulnerabilities. Localization systems in WSNs are deployed in variety of environments where several adversaries may intend to disturb the localization by compromising nodes, intercepting, jamming, modifying, and replaying the exchanged messages between the nodes leading to distorted and incorrect location estimation.

Many secure localization systems have been proposed and reviewed in the survey, some are node-centric, and others are infrastructure-centric. However, based on their design goals they have been further classified into three classes:

  • Prevention methods: solutions that prevent adversaries from producing erroneous location.
  • Detection methods: solution that detect and revoke nodes producing erroneous location information.
  • Filtering methods: solutions that filter received erroneous location information.

Location Verification

In node-centric localization, where sensor nodes report their self-computed locations, nodes may be compromised and intentionally report fake/false locations. In this case, the infrastructure (i.e. BS) may not trust the reported locations. The location verification methods are used to examine the correctness of the reported locations.

Many location verification solutions have been proposed and reviewed in the survey and classified into two classes:

  • In-region: solutions that verify whether nodes are in- side given regions (e.g., inside a cafe),
  • Single-position: solutions that verify whether nodes are at given positions.

In summary, the survey reviewed existing solutions for secure localization and location verification in WSNs. The authors presented possible attacks (elementary and combinational) and classified existing solutions for each problem and presented simulation implementations of secure localization algorithms. As future work, multi-hop and range-based localization systems and secure localization for sparse WSNs require more investigation.