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With the rapid proliferation of new technologies and services in the wireless domain, spectrum scarcity has become a major concern. The allocation of the Industrial, Medical and Scientific (ISM) band has enabled the explosion of new technologies (e.g. Wi-Fi) due to its licence-exempt characteristic. The widespread adoption of Wi-Fi technology, combined with the rapid penetration of smart phones running popular user services (e.g. social online networks) has overcrowded substantially the ISM band. On the other hand, according to a number of recent reports, several parts of the static allocated licensed bands are under-utilized. This has brought up the idea of the opportunistic use of these bands through the, so-called, cognitive radios and cognitive radio networks. Cognitive radios have enabled the opportunity to transmit in several licensed bands without causing harmful interference to licensed users. Along with the realization of cognitive radios, new security threats have been raised. Adversaries can exploit several vulnerabilities of this new technology and cause severe performance degradation. Security threats are mainly related to two fundamental characteristics of cognitive radios: cognitive capability, and reconfigurability. Threats related to the cognitive capability include attacks launched by adversaries that mimic primary transmitters, and transmission of false observations related to spectrum sensing. Reconfiguration can be exploited by attackers through the use of malicious code installed in cognitive radios. Furthermore, as cognitive radio networks are wireless in nature, they face all classic threats present in the conventional wireless networks. The scope of this work is to give an overview of the security threats and challenges that cognitive radios and cognitive radio networks face, along with the current state-of-the-art to detect the corresponding attacks. In addition, future challenges are addressed.
Date of Publication: First Quarter 2013