CAREER: Principled Approaches to Securing Next-Generation Cellular Networks

  • Hussain, Syed Rafiul (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Cellular networks are the most pervasive and primary means of global-scale communication that enable connectivity for billions of devices worldwide. Yet, while being such core infrastructures of a nation, there is a lack of systematic and rigorous security analysis frameworks and secure-by-design principles to ensure secure and reliable operations of these networks. Even though cellular technologies have evolved over generations, trust assumptions have largely remained the same whereas adversary capabilities have significantly grown. The adversary capabilities will thus continue to grow and violate the security guarantees of next-generation cellular networks that we rely on today. Therefore, the overarching goal of this project is to secure the next-generation cellular networks through the development of algorithms and systems that verify the security and privacy guarantees of cellular network protocols' design and implementations with respect to next-generation adversaries that can break the current trust assumptions. The proposal's educational content will offer and organize courses, cellular capture-the-flag (CCTF) competitions, and K-12 workshops focusing on the security and privacy of emerging networks and systems. Undergraduates, women, and underrepresented students will be recruited to encourage their engagement in research and educational activities.

This project aims to improve the security of cellular networks from the ground up by incorporating security analysis starting from the design to implementations and real deployments. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to achieve this vision in practice due to the following three important grand challenges: (i) Lack of models and properties for security analysis; (ii) Lack of automated and holistic security analysis framework; and (iii) Lack of techniques to create correct and secure cellular protocol implementations. This project seeks to address these broad challenges in a unified framework through (a) Developing a formal static security analysis framework to scalably analyze the protocol model of the design, i.e., the cellular standard of next-generation cellular networks; (b) Designing and implementing dynamic security analysis framework for analyzing and verifying the security of cellular protocol implementations; and (c) Developing cellular network-specific protocol modeling language and code generation mechanism to produce high-assurance reference implementations of cellular protocols. Results from this work have the potential to fundamentally improve the security of current (5G) and next-generation (6G) cellular networks and thus will make a significant impact on national and global security. Tools, models, properties, and findings will be shared in the public domain to promote and advance the science and community of cellular networks, directly benefiting cellular stakeholders, developers, and standard bodies.

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.

Effective start/end date10/1/229/30/27


  • National Science Foundation: $114,346.00


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