Computer Science

Sensing Worms

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Science  17 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6011, pp. 1589
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6011.1589-b

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Arrays of small remote sensors are increasingly being used to gather fundamental data in many fields. Examples range from medical monitoring within and beyond hospitals to assessing energy usage. New sensors communicate wirelessly, are battery-powered, and have their own small processors and memory. For simplicity, they typically lack much security, but it has been considered difficult to infect a network through a few sensors. Giannetsos et al. explore how one common type of sensor, using the Van Neumann architecture, can be infected with a worm that will spread through the sensor network. In this architecture, the instructions and data share the same memory, and multiple packets of the virus can be uploaded into the buffer overload; once assembled, they override the instructions. Regular automatic communication with other sensors spreads the worm. The authors also explore how to protect sensor networks from this kind of attack.

Comput. J. 53, 1576 (2010).

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