The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a team of researchers, including researchers from FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing, $1 million to continue their work to help thwart cyberattacks ― from computers and mobile devices to large-scale networks.
The research aims to create security solutions for 5G/6G networks. While these Next Generation Networks (NextG) provide faster, high-bandwidth and high-quality services ― and have the capability of connecting millions of IoT (Internet of Things) devices ― they also increase the possibility of compromised security.
Transportation, energy systems, manufacturing, healthcare and agriculture are among the many sectors that may use wireless devices on NextG Networks. Drones, autonomous vehicles, smart city sensors and power grid devices communicate through wireless connections ― some of them unattended or not regularly updated.
“The new technology doesn’t just add bandwidth,” said Professor Kemal Akkaya, head of the Advanced Wireless and Security Lab (ADWISE) in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, who is FIU’s co-principal investigator on the project, along with Professor Ahmed Ibrahim. “It’s a matter of significantly increasing the number and types of devices. While your phone is something you own and carry with you, which makes it possible for you to manage and protect to some degree, some IoT devices can be accessed by outsiders physically or through cyberattacks. An attack like that could go unnoticed for some time.”
The team of scientists is specifically studying methods to reduce the odds of attack by the quantum computers of the future that will target 5G/6G systems. Quantum computers are extremely powerful and fast and can process huge amounts of data in different ways than today’s standard computers. If quantum-safe cryptography algorithms are not developed and adapted to 5G/6G systems, quantum computers will be able to quickly crack most of the existing cryptographic algorithms in current cellular systems, driving data breaches that could cause long-lasting damage to government, commercial entities, and businesses, as well as individuals.
“We are always working five to 10 years in the future, developing ways to safeguard our information as breakthroughs that impact telecommunications are made,” Ibrahim said. “Our devices are very vulnerable, particularly as 5G, and then 6G, technologies are being deployed.”
The three-year project, entitled “RINGS: Bringing Post-Quantum Cryptography to Large-Scale NextG Systems,” is a collaboration with Florida Atlantic University and its principal investigator Reza Azarderakhsh, and Marquette University, whose principal investigator Mumin Cebe, is Akkaya’s former student at FIU.
“Whatever we do here will probably be translated into standards and adopted by telecom operators. This is crucial technology for our nation,” Akkaya said.
FIU’s expertise in wireless network security contributed to the university’s NSF award.
Akkaya has spent the last 15 years focusing on the integrity, confidentiality, and authentication of wireless communications and IoT.
The NSF RINGS (Resilient & Intelligent NextG Systems) program is the agency’s most extensive effort to bring the public and private sectors together to support research that protects and helps grow the use of next-generation networks.
Professor Akkaya holds “Friday Talks” with his students to discuss FIU’s cybersecurity research and initiatives.