MASC - Monitoring and Security of Containers

Dr.-Ing. Jens Ove Lauf


Project Description

Equipping transport containers with sensor nodes is today considered in logistics applications both to increase the quality of information about goods in transport and as part of counter-terrorism efforts. MASC is a solution that monitors the status of containers as they are passed on through the whole transport chain.

MASC Infrastructure

MASC consits of a container unit which is embedded into a container seam. The task of the device is to monitor the internal conditions and to transmit them wirelessly to a base station in the proximity. These MASC base stations are necessary to enable MASC service at container vessels, trucks, trains, and container yards/depots. They are connected to the internet and forward the measured sensor data received from the container unit to a backend server in the internet. This database mirrors the events generated by the container unit. The MASC information service offers the information to parties who might be interessted.

The partly wireless link between container and remote database server is secured by a lightweight cryptographic tunnel which is optimised to save energy of the container node. However, security incisions were not be made.

The MASC information service provides the monitoring information to the involved logistic parties. Authentication and authorisation is adapted to the special situation of contracting in the logistic world, where lots of parties are involved without knowing more than the direct contractor.

Contract Tree
The shipper (party who wants the load transported) mandates a forwarding agency to organise the whole transport. This party assembles the whole transport chain by ordering subcarriages. A carrier is responsible for every carriage. It may also happen that the forwardings agency asks another forwarder to organise a part of the transport. This may espacially happen when the transport passes countries where special forwarders have sophisticated knowlegde. An example contract tree is sketched above. The root forwarder usually do not know which carriers are instructed by subforwarders. Also carriers can commision subforwarder when they have e.g. a special partnership with those. The MASC information system also offers a distributed manifest system where all LSPs (logistic service providers) collaboratively compile the container manifest containing the bill of lading, etc.

The MASC project tackles many different research areas. The technological aspects occupied by the MASC application are not new, but the special requirements of the container devices and the special grown contract complexity is new in this combination. The needed solutions are a mixture of current sensor network technology based on client-server-approaches out of the 80s. Paired with the security concerns and the needed protection of confidential information interessting boundary conditions raise.



Fields of Research

Published Thesis

Jens Ove Lauf, IT-Sicherheitsarchitektur zur Containerüberwachung, PhD thesis, June 2008


Published Papers

Secure Leightweight Tunnel for Monitoring Transport Containers
Jens Ove Lauf, Harald Sauff
IEEE 3rd International Conference on Security and Privacy in Communication Networks,
Securecomm 2007, Nizza

Published Paper

Interface between container and remote database


Published Paper

MASC lightweight tunnel using RC6 on ScatterWeb field test platform
Diploma thesis: Energieaufnahme von Kryptographiealgorithmen auf Sensorknoten (german)
Harald Sauff, Sep. 2006

AES on ScatterWeb Sensor Nodes
Diploma thesis
Björn Zessack

Random Number Generator using Analog Sensor Values for Randomness
Bachelor thesis
Henrik Tolk

MASC information service

 AMANDA based demo application for the MASC information service using XACML delegation
Master thesis
Ana-Luisa Alam





MASC information service

Future Work

Experiences and knowledge from the MASC project will go into the new project ContainIT, sponsored by the german Federal Ministry of Education and Research