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  • Research Article
  • Open Access

Biometric Methods for Secure Communications in Body Sensor Networks: Resource-Efficient Key Management and Signal-Level Data Scrambling

EURASIP Journal on Advances in Signal Processing20072008:529879

  • Received: 1 June 2007
  • Accepted: 21 December 2007
  • Published:


As electronic communications become more prevalent, mobile and universal, the threats of data compromises also accordingly loom larger. In the context of a body sensor network (BSN), which permits pervasive monitoring of potentially sensitive medical data, security and privacy concerns are particularly important. It is a challenge to implement traditional security infrastructures in these types of lightweight networks since they are by design limited in both computational and communication resources. A key enabling technology for secure communications in BSN's has emerged to be biometrics. In this work, we present two complementary approaches which exploit physiological signals to address security issues: (1) a resource-efficient key management system for generating and distributing cryptographic keys to constituent sensors in a BSN; (2) a novel data scrambling method, based on interpolation and random sampling, that is envisioned as a potential alternative to conventional symmetric encryption algorithms for certain types of data. The former targets the resource constraints in BSN's, while the latter addresses the fuzzy variability of biometric signals, which has largely precluded the direct application of conventional encryption. Using electrocardiogram (ECG) signals as biometrics, the resulting computer simulations demonstrate the feasibility and efficacy of these methods for delivering secure communications in BSN's.


  • Encryption Algorithm
  • Secure Communication
  • Privacy Concern
  • Symmetric Encryption
  • Security Infrastructure

Publisher note

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Authors’ Affiliations

The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Toronto, 10 King's College Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 3G4


© F. M. Bui and D. Hatzinakos. 2008

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.