The 5G networks currently being rolled out globally are expected to revolutionize a wide spectrum of application domains, including, but not limited to, automotive, healthcare, smart cities, factories, and first responders. This project seeks to enhance the security and resilience of the next-generation mobile communication networks against threats that may cause infrastructure-level damages. First, the ease of distributing mobile applications from marketplaces (e.g., Google Play and Apple App Store) and the growing popularity of IoT (Internet-of-Things) devices have made it possible to construct large botnets capable of attacking critical infrastructures. Second, both insider threats (e.g., disgruntled former employees) and unintentional human errors (e.g., network misconfiguration) can cause widespread cellular service failures. Third, virtualization of 5G core network services makes them attractive targets for APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) attackers who covet sensitive user data, such as mobile users' account information, locations, and private keys. The successful execution of this project will not only produce tools that can protect the Nation's mobile communication infrastructures but also train students from diverse backgrounds for jobs in critical infrastructure protection.
The main goal of this CAREER project is to develop three-layered, proactive defenses for the next-generation mobile communication infrastructures. The first layer of defense will provide infrastructure-level accountability support to deter potential attackers because their attack origins can be traced from observable network events with high accuracy. The second layer will use real-time machine learning techniques enhanced with knowledge of communication protocol specifications to identify anomalous activities. These anomaly detection methods will be designed with robustness against adversarial manipulations such as model poisoning and evasion attacks. The third layer of defense will focus on diverting attackers who have successfully penetrated into the mobile communication infrastructures to deceptive environments, where their attack capabilities, intentions, and origins can be revealed. This CAREER project will engage 5G infrastructure stakeholders in improving the security and resilience of their mobile network operations. Its research activities will involve undergraduates and under-represented minority students.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.