Securing Network Functions in 5G Open Radio Access Networks

My recent literature reviews have centered around various methods for securing and remotely attesting cloud-native and virtualized network functions (CNFs/VNFs) that are deployed as part of an open 5G network. Lots of work has been done in the SDN/NFV security, remote attestation, software-defined perimeter (SDP), and zero-trust architecture (ZTA) spaces; however, I have found only a couple of studies that consider highly orchestrated workloads in which microservices are migrated, spun up, or spun down to match fluctuating demand. This practice of continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) may disrupt network service meshes (NSM) and service function chains (SFC) that rely on the availability of multiple microservices.

This topic is closely aligned to what was formerly known as the “Operate Through” mission of the Department of Defense’s FutureG R&D program. The goal of the mission continues to be achieving secure communications over untrusted 5G networks. The programmability of a disaggregated, cloud-native, multi-vendor ORAN presents unique opportunities to implement controls beyond what is deemed mandatory per 3GPP security specifications. The objective here is, by using current and emerging 5G ORAN standards and equipment, that military applications may one day operate over public 5G networks with the necessary security and resiliency to comply with standing data protection policies.

Stay tuned as I will be studying this subject in considerable depth for my second conference paper.

So it’s 2024…already?

First things first — I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous year!

It’s January 1st and I haven’t posted anything in the past 18 months. Which means <insert dramatic pause here> that I’ve made a new year’s resolution to post more often and more specifically, “journal” my research and dissertation-writing journey.

I would love to say that I’m in some kind of “home stretch” of my degree program but I can’t. I’m in the throes of scoping out a second paper topic while also planning a preliminary research defense (a key milestone in my academic program) sometime later this spring semester. In addition, a VT colleague and I have partnered up to read and discuss a collection of 60+ networking papers. Did I mention that I’m a part-time PhD student? ?

So…back to what this blog post is all about. While I may occasionally veer off and post something that I find generally noteworthy or marginally relevant, I plan to post regular updates on my research progress — which includes endless literature reviews, paper outlines and drafts, research team presentations (e.g., “half-baked” talks and pre-conference preps), conference paper submissions (and responses!), and of course, my dissertation progress.

I don’t expect all — or most, for that matter — of these posts to be inspirational or packed with “good news” but I do expect the posts to serve as an accurate account of my journey, including the highs and lows, that may be of value to others who are considering this path. With that said, my next post is already forming in my head!