The provision of security in mobile ad hoc networks is of paramount importance due to their wireless nature. However, when conducting research into security protocols for ad hoc networks it is necessary to consider these in the context of the overall system. For example, communicational delay associated with the underlying MAC layer needs to be taken into account. Nodes in mobile ad hoc networks must strictly obey the rules of the underlying MAC when transmitting security-related messages while still maintaining a certain quality of service. In this paper a novel authentication protocol, RASCAAL, is described and its performance is analysed by investigating both the communicational-related effects of the underlying IEEE 802.11 MAC and the computational-related effects of the cryptographic algorithms employed. To the best of the authors' knowledge, RASCAAL is the first authentication protocol which proposes the concept of dynamically formed short-lived random clusters with no prior knowledge of the cluster head. The performance analysis demonstrates that the communication losses outweigh the computation losses with respect to energy and delay. MAC-related communicational effects account for 99% of the total delay and total energy consumption incurred by the RASCAAL protocol. The results also show that a saving in communicational energy of up to 12.5% can be achieved by changing the status of the wireless nodes during the course of operation.
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