Preferred Name

Mauricio Tellez

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Computer Science


M. Hossain Heydari

Samy El-Tawab


With the rapid technological advancements of sensors, Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) have become the main technology for the Internet of Things (IoT). We investigated the security of WSNs in an environmental monitoring system with the goal to improve the overall security. We implemented a Secure Temperature Monitoring System (STMS), which served as our investigational environment. Our results revealed a security flaw found in the bootstrap loader (BSL) password used to protect firmware in the MSP430 MCU chips. We demonstrated how the BSL password could be brute forced in a matter of days. Furthermore, we illustrate how an attacker can reverse engineer firmware and obtain copies of cryptographic keys. We contributed a solution to improve the BSL password and better protect firmware found in the MSP430 chips. The Secure-BSL software we contributed allows the randomization of the BSL password. Our solution increases the brute force time to decades. The impractical brute force time improves the security of firmware and prevents future reverse engineering tactics. In addition, our Secure-BSL software supports two-factor authentication that allows developers to specify a user-defined passphrase to further protect the MSP430 MCU. Our research serves as proof that any security implemented in a WSN environment is broken if an attacker has access to firmware found in sensor devices.



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