The pervasive use of wireless networks has created a demand for students who are trained to include security in the design constraints of new systems, not as an afterthought. This project from Drexel University proposes to leverage the hands-on learning opportunities offered by software defined radios (SDRs) to emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of cybersecurity and information assurance. The researchers aim to accomplish their goal by developing and offering an academic curriculum that consists of a series of 3-courses with competitions (Radio Wars) centered around various interdisciplinary degrees of freedom of a SDR. Students will be tasked to securely transmit information, while preventing others from doing so. Throughout their exposure to materials, students will start with wireless communication basics and dive into adding encryption, authentication, and power management modules to their radios. The researchers will use assessment techniques focused on understanding whether the curriculum provides students with a learning experience that is authentic to the work of the discipline and promotes development of content knowledge and skills relating to excelling in the cybersecurity field. The project aims to have broader impacts in preparing cybersecurity individuals for the workforce by leveraging connections with the NSA as well as offering learning opportunities to high school students, which will expose them early on to cybersecurity, engineering and STEM fields. Finally, the team plans to maximize their impacts by disseminating the course materials designed for other researchers to be able to adopt them.

The Ettus USRP N210 SDR platform provides the flexibility and ease of use needed to implement Radio Wars and will thus serve as the platform for the proposed project. The project will leverage the ceiling mounted SDR grid network at Drexel University as the "battleground". A visual scoreboard system will be implemented for real-time feedback for student progress. This system will require specific API calls to be used by students. The first year of the project will focus on developing the curriculum and the hardware/software backbone using GNU Radio, UHD, and Python programming. The second year of the project will be when the Radio Wars courses will be offered. Students will be asked to implement various encryption (AES, TLS, IPSec, WEP and WPA2) and authentication techniques to maximize their score. Each action taken by student teams during the competition will be logged for scoring. The project hopes to develop an educational suite that will begin to do for cybersecurity and information assurance education what "Battlebots" does for robotics and mechanical engineering education.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Graduate Education (DGE)
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Li Yang
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Drexel University
United States
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