A heterogeneous distributed sensor network (HDSN) is a type of distributed sensor network where sensors with different deployment groups and different functional types participate at the same time. In other words, the sensors are divided into different deployment groups according to different types of data transmissions, but they cooperate with each other within and out of their respective groups. However, in traditional heterogeneous sensor networks, the classification is based on transmission range, energy level, computation ability, and sensing range. Taking this model into account, we propose a secure group association authentication mechanism using one-way accumulator which ensures that: before collaborating for a particular task, any pair of nodes in the same deployment group can verify the legitimacy of group association of each other. Secure addition and deletion of sensors are also supported in this approach. In addition, a policy-based sensor addition procedure is also suggested. For secure handling of disconnected nodes of a group, we use an efficient pairwise key derivation scheme to resist any adversary's attempt. Along with proposing our mechanism, we also discuss the characteristics of HDSN, its scopes, applicability, future, and challenges. The efficiency of our security management approach is also demonstrated with performance evaluation and analysis. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.