Security Issues for Modern Communications Systems: Fundamental Electronic Warfare Tactics for 4G Systems and Beyond

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Virginia Tech


In the modern era of wireless communications, radios are becoming increasingly more cognitive. As the complexity and robustness of friendly communications increases, so do the abilities of adversarial jammers. The potential uses and threats of these jammers directly pertain to fourth generation (4G) communication standards, as well as future standards employing similar physical layer technologies.

This paper investigates a number of threats to the technologies utilized by 4G and future systems, as well as potential improvements to the security and robustness of these communications systems. The work undertaken highlights potential attacks at both the physical layer and the multiple access control (MAC) layer along with improvements to the technologies which they target.

This work presents a series of intelligent, targeted jamming attacks against the orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) synchronization process to demonstrate some security flaws in existing 4G technology, as well as to highlight some of the potential tools of a cognitive electronic warfare attack device. Performance analysis of the OFDM synchronization process are demonstrated in the presence of the efficient attacks, where in many cases complete denial of service is induced.

A method for cross ambiguity function (CAF) based OFDM synchronization is presented as a security and mitigation tactic for 4G devices in the context of cognitive warfare scenarios. The method is shown to maintain comparable performance to other correlation based synchronization estimators while offering the benefit of a disguised preamble. Sync-amble randomization is also discussed as a combinatory strategy with CAF based OFDM synchronization to prevent cognitive jammers for tracking and targeting OFDM synchronization.

Finally, this work presents a method for dynamic spectrum access (DSA) enabled radio identification based solely on radio frequency (RF) observation. This method represents the framework for which both the cognitive jammer and anti-jam radio would perform cognitive sensing in order to utilize the intelligent physical layer attack and mitigation strategies previously discussed. The identification algorithm is shown to be theoretically effective in classifying and identifying two DSA radios with distinct operating policies.



Wireless Communications