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Secure communication for the Internet of Things - a comparison of link-layer security and IPsec for 6LoWPAN

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  • Shahid Raza
  • Simon Duquennoy
  • Joel Höglund
  • Utz Roedig
  • Thiemo Voigt
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Security and Communication Networks
Issue number12
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)2654-2668
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date18/01/12
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The future Internet is an IPv6 network interconnecting traditional computers and a large number of smart objects. This Internet of Things (IoT) will be the foundation of many services and our daily life will depend on its availability and reliable operation. Therefore, among many other issues, the challenge of implementing secure communication in the IoT must be addressed. In the traditional Internet, IPsec is the established and tested way of securing networks. It is therefore reasonable to explore the option of using IPsec as a security mechanism for the IoT. Smart objects are generally added to the Internet using IPv6 over Low-power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN), which defines IP communication for resource-constrained networks. Thus, to provide security for the IoT based on the trusted and tested IPsec mechanism, it is necessary to define an IPsec extension of 6LoWPAN. In this paper, we present such a 6LoWPAN/IPsec extension and show the viability of this approach. We describe our 6LoWPAN/IPsec implementation, which we evaluate and compare with our implementation of IEEE 802.15.4 link-layer security. We also show that it is possible to reuse crypto hardware within existing IEEE 802.15.4 transceivers for 6LoWPAN/IPsec. The evaluation results show that IPsec is a feasible option for securing the IoT in terms of packet size, energy consumption, memory usage, and processing time. Furthermore, we demonstrate that in contrast to common belief, IPsec scales better than link-layer security as the data size and the number of hops grow, resulting in time and energy savings.