Intelligent Approaches for Communication Denial

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Virginia Tech

Spectrum supremacy is a vital part of security in the modern era. In the past 50 years, a great deal of work has been devoted to designing defenses against attacks from malicious nodes (e.g., anti-jamming), while significantly less work has been devoted to the equally important task of designing effective strategies for denying communication between enemy nodes/radios within an area (e.g., jamming). Such denial techniques are especially useful in military applications and intrusion detection systems where untrusted communication must be stopped. In this dissertation, we study these offensive attack procedures, collectively termed as communication denial. The communication denial strategies studied in this dissertation are not only useful in undermining the communication between enemy nodes, but also help in analyzing the vulnerabilities of existing systems.

A majority of the works which address communication denial assume that knowledge about the enemy nodes is available a priori. However, recent advances in communication systems creates the potential for dynamic environmental conditions where it is difficult and most likely not even possible to obtain a priori information regarding the environment and the nodes that are present in it. Therefore, it is necessary to have cognitive capabilities that enable the attacker to learn the environment and prevent enemy nodes from accessing valuable spectrum, thereby denying communication.

In this regard, we ask the following question in this dissertation ``Can an intelligent attacker learn and adapt to unknown environments in an electronic warfare-type scenario?" Fundamentally speaking, we explore whether existing machine learning techniques can be used to address such cognitive scenarios and, if not, what are the missing pieces that will enable an attacker to achieve spectrum supremacy by denying an enemy the ability to communicate? The first task in achieving spectrum supremacy is to identify the signal of interest before it can be attacked. Thus, we first address signal identification, specifically modulation classification, in practical wireless environments where the interference is often non-Gaussian. Upon identifying the signal of interest, the next step is to effectively attack the victim signals in order to deny communication. We present a rigorous fundamental analysis regarding the attackers performance, in terms of achieving communication denial, in practical communication settings. Furthermore, we develop intelligent approaches for communication denial that employ novel machine learning techniques to attack the victim either at the physical layer, the MAC layer, or the network layer. We rigorously investigate whether or not these learning techniques enable the attacker to approach the fundamental performance limits achievable when an attacker has complete knowledge of the environment. As a result of our work, we debunk several myths about communication denial strategies that were believed to be true mainly because incorrect system models were previously considered and thus the wrong questions were answered.

Communication, Denial, Jamming, Learning