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Challenges of Secure Computation and Communication on Energy-constrained Devices


Status Archive
School National Graduate School in Computer Science (CUGS)
Division ADIT
Owner Nahid Shahmehri

This is an intensive course. The participants are expected to be present at the course sessions.

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Course plan


Recommended for

Doctoral students or advanced master students with a background and interest in hardware and security.

The course was last given

First time.


Energy-constrained devices such as sensor nodes have conflicting
targets: increasing mission time by reducing power consumption, increasing security of operation by adequate enryption and authentication techniques. On the one hand, reducing the number of instructions per cryptographic operation or reducing processor speed decreases power consumption. On the other hand decreasing key length increases vulnerability, and increasing the time to perform a protocol increases energy consumption due to longer activation of the radio receiver.

Most students are either familiar with the security aspects or with the hardware and energy-efficiency aspects of such scenarios, but not with both. Hence, the goal of the course is to provide the necessary level of familiarity with both aspects, and use the example scenario to demonstrate the challenges and solution approaches for these kinds of multi-criteria optimization problems. To foster the applicability of the course contents, the lectures are complemented by lab excercises.


basic knowledge of securitiy primitives
(see e.g. Menezes et al., especially Chapters 9 and
10.2 (Lamport's OTP)
basic knowledge of computer organization (see e.g. Patterson/Hennessy, especially Chap. 1-4) basic knowledge of combinatorial optimization (esp. linear optimization) (see e.g. Papadimitriou/Steiglitz, especially Chapters 1 and 2.1-2.3, or http://www.math.ucla.edu/~tom/LP.pdf (Chap 1) or http://mat.gsia.cmu.edu/orclass/integer/integer.html
(Introduction und Modelling))
basic knowledge of C, Java, matlab or excel programming for excercises (see e.g. Kernighan/Ritchie, or Flanagan, or Wikibooks http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/C_Programming,


The first part of the course will summarize facts from security/encryption, computer hardware and power consumption, and optimization, each field is treated with consideration of the other two fields (3 lectures, one for each field). The second part of the course will focus on two problem fields from the example scenario: (1) determine the required key length given a certain attacker strength (more security related) (2 lectures), (2) how to choose speed when performing a cryptographic protocol such as authentic code update to minimize total energy consumption (2 lectures). The final part will give an outlook where similar problems appear in theory and practice (1 lecture). The lectures are complemented by excercises in the lab, where energy and security problems are to be treated by small programming tasks.


2 days
8 lectures (45 min each), 4 per day (morning)
2 lab exercises (2+hrs each), 1 per day (afternoon) Students will be given documents to read in advance, and pointers to literature to consolidate and deepen knowledge after the course.


D. Flanagan, Java in a Nutshell. O'Reilly 2005.
B.W. Kernighan, D.M. Ritchie, The C Programming Language, Prentice Hall 1988 A.J. Menezes et al. Handbook of Applied Cryptography, CRC Press 1997, http://cacr.uwaterloo.ca/hac/ C.H. Papadimitriou, K. Steiglitz. Combinatorial Optimization: Algorithms and Complexity, Dover Publications 1998 D.A. Patterson, J.L. Hennessy. Computer Organization and Design. Morgan Kaufmann, 2013.


Guest lecturer: Prof. Dr. Jörg Keller, FernUniv. in Hagen, Germany http://www.fernuni-hagen.de/pv/en/team/joerg.keller.shtml


External Examiner: Georg Keller
Internal examiner: Nahid Shahmehri


Assignment with send in three weeks after course.



Organized by



Proposed date: 2 successive days (approximately) in first half of Feb or first half of March.

Note: Active participation in the lecture and exercises is a requirement for competing the course.

Page responsible: Director of Graduate Studies