On the price of security in large-scale wireless ad hoc networks

Chi Zhang, Yang Song, Yuguang Fang, Yanchao Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Security always comes with a price in terms of performance degradation, which should be carefully quantified. This is especially the case for wireless ad hoc networks (WANETs), which offer communications over a shared wireless channel without any preexisting infrastructure. Forming end-to-end secure paths in such WANETs is more challenging than in conventional networks due to the lack of central authorities, and its impact on network performance is largely untouched in the literature. In this paper, based on a general random network model, the asymptotic behaviors of secure throughput and delay with the common transmission range rn and the probability pf of neighboring nodes having a primary security association are quantified when the network size n is sufficiently large. The costs and benefits of secure-link-augmentation operations on the secure throughput and delay are also analyzed. In general, security has a cost: Since we require all the communications operate on secure links, there is a degradation in the network performance when pf<1. However, one important exception is that when pf is Ω(1/log n), the secure throughput remains at the Gupta and Kumar bound of Θ(1/√n log n) packets/time slot, wherein no security requirements are enforced on WANETs. This implies that even when the pf goes to zero as the network size becomes arbitrarily large, it is still possible to build throughput-order-optimal secure WANETs, which is of practical interest since pf is very small in many practical large-scale WANETs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5710020
Pages (from-to)319-332
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Ad hoc networks
  • network performance
  • network security
  • wireless networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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