Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Eric T. Matson

Committee Chair

Eric T. Matson

Committee Member 1

Anthony H. Smith

Committee Member 2

J. Eric Dietz


Humans and robots must work together in increasingly complex networks to achieve a common goal. In this research, firefighting robots are a part of a larger, decentralized system of humans, agents, robots, machines, and sensors (HARMS). Although communication in a HARMS model has been utilized in previous research, this new study looks at the security considerations of the communications layer of the HARMS model. A network attack known as a man-in-the-middle attack is successfully demonstrated in this paper. Then, a secure communications protocol is proposed to help provide confidentiality and authentication of HARMS actors. This research is applied to any system that utilizes a HARMS network, including firefighting robots, to help ensure malicious entities cannot exploit communications by system actors. Instead, system actors that confirm their identity can communicate securely in a decentralized way for indistinguishable task completion. The results of this experiment are successful, indicating that secure communication can prevent man-in-the-middle attacks with minor differences in operation.