A study of the energy consumption characteristics of cryptographic algorithms and security protocols

N. R. Potlapally, S. Ravi, A. Raghunathan, N. K. Jha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

344 Scopus citations


Security is becoming an everyday concern for a wide range of electronic systems that manipulate, communicate, and store sensitive data. An important and emerging category of such electronic systems are battery-powered mobile appliances, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones, which are severely constrained in the resources they possess, namely, processor, battery, and memory. This work focuses on one important constraint of such devicesbattery lifeand examines how it is impacted by the use of various security mechanisms. In this paper, we first present a comprehensive analysis of the energy requirements of a wide range of cryptographic algorithms that form the building blocks of security mechanisms such as security protocols. We then study the energy consumption requirements of the most popular transport-layer security protocol: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). We investigate the impact of various parameters at the protocol level (such as cipher suites, authentication mechanisms, and transaction sizes, etc.) and the cryptographic algorithm level (cipher modes, strength) on the overall energy consumption for secure data transactions. To our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive analysis of the energy requirements of SSL. For our studies, we have developed a measurement-based experimental testbed that consists of an iPAQ PDA connected to a wireless local area network (LAN) and running Linux, a PC-based data acquisition system for real-time current measurement, the OpenSSL implementation of the SSL protocol, and parameterizable SSL client and server test programs. Based on our results, we also discuss various opportunities for realizing energy-efficient implementations of security protocols. We believe such investigations to be an important first step toward addressing the challenges of energy-efficient security for battery-constrained systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-143
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • 3DES
  • AES
  • Cryptographic algorithms
  • DES
  • DSA
  • Diffie-Hellman
  • ECC
  • Embedded system
  • Energy analysis
  • Handheld
  • Low-power
  • RSA
  • SSL
  • Security
  • Security protocols


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