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!


Long Time, No Post…

It’s been a long, LONG while since my last post and I have a very simple explanation: I’ve been busy! Since my last post back in Sept/Oct, quite a lot has transpired. I’m currently plowing towards the end of my spring semester course, CS 6204 Network Science, and working feverishly on my research paper that is due in the final week.

By “feverishly”, of course I’m implying “feverish” relative to my part-time student status. That statement, in essence, underlies why I likely will never update this blog as frequently as I would like. I am raising two active young boys while holding down a “day job” supporting various mobility and IoT initiatives in the defense community.

As time permits, I do hope to provide an update on my ongoing research efforts. The quick-and-dirty version is that I’ve moved away from mobile crowdsensing and am now working in the cyber deception space with a strong emphasis on modeling and evaluating defensive deception techniques using game theory (yes, I said game theory). A good deal of the literature research is done and I’m now building the experiment as ideas and details materialize and get written into the draft paper. Good thing that what used to be Jedi-level dev chops are still good enough to get the job done. My transition from Java + Eclipse (albeit a decade or so ago) to Python + Jupyter Notebook has gone fairly well thus far, if I may say so.

Stay tuned for my next post — I promise to get into the weeds of my research!

Lit Research: Research Journals and Conferences

There are a lot of academic/research conferences and journals out there. How do you pick one from such a large pool of good options? I’m glad that you asked because I’ve recently learned A LOT about the business of journal citations and its impact on research publications and conference selection processes. In short, citations are the new “currency” that fuels the academic research community. Not too unlike “likes” in social media, citations are a visual “applause” that tells the world how “important” your research is within your circle of researchers.

I used the term “business” deliberately. If you look at the “Metrics” tab for an IEEE citation, you’ll see three subsections — Usage, Citations and Online Sharing Activity. This type of quantitative citation and web analytics data was originally intended to inform the author(s) of the extent to which a research paper has been reviewed and/or referenced. That volume of citation information has now evolved to be used for so much more. In fact, research conferences and journals have helped build this growing repository of citation data into a profitable industry. Continue reading “Lit Research: Research Journals and Conferences”

Lit Research 101: Tools and Tips

So, what exactly is “literature research”? This is also referred to as “literature review” but (in my honest opinion) the word “review” just doesn’t do adequate justice to the level of searching, archiving, reading and note-taking that is involved. In short, lit research is a one-person quest to discover and review the full body of published, authoritative materials pertaining to a specific research area or topic. In previous eras, this meant spending hours in the stacks at the local library and if sufficiently dedicated, utilizing the inter-library loan to get your hands on the latest-and-greatest publications and journals. However, in today’s hyper-connected society, literature research involves a lot of web searches using software tools to help you mine the vast collections of research publications and related information freely available via the internet.

(here’s a good YT video if you’re interested in a more in-depth understanding of the lit review/research process)

If lit research seems like a tedious and odious ordeal, it is because it IS a tedious and odious ordeal! For the first leg of your journey to becoming a recognized expert on a given academic subject — and to produce some meaningful and original contribution to your field’s body of knowledge — you must first sit at the feet of the sages who paved the road before you. By “sit at their feet”, I mean you have to read their publications and understand their various approaches to solving your research topic or question. While the initial goal is to learn what has been accomplished in your chosen field of study, there is a second objective that you need to keep an eye out for as your pore over COUNTLESS papers and articles (notice that I didn’t say “books”): gaps or shortcomings in past research endeavors. These gaps may present opportunities for future research questions or topics. Continue reading “Lit Research 101: Tools and Tips”

Lit Research: Getting Started

If only literature research was just that! For the past couple of months, I have vacillated between reviewing IEEE whitepapers on topics related to my research interest areas and doubling back to my favorite MOOCs (massive open online courses such as to learn/re-learn stuff I knew COLD back in undergrad (e.g., differential calculus, trig functions, probability theory and even C programming!). Do forgive me — it’s been a couple of decades since I’ve found the derivative of a natural log!

My faculty advisor, Prof. Cho, recently offered some valuable tips for conducting my literature survey. My objective is to hit two birds with one well-placed stone: 1) enhance my knowledge of the subject domain; and 2) getting a read on what is “state of the art” on a particular research topic. Perhaps my objective is actually threefold: I also endeavor to identify pertinent research challenges and gaps to shape my search for potential research questions, technical approaches and candidate data sets. I find that I am constantly refining my search parameters as I iteratively factor the following constraints: my research interests, my advisor’s research interests, the technical domains (i.e., military mobile computing, IoT and wireless/cellular networks) in which I tread during my “day job” and the relative proximity from the “application/software layer” (I can talk like an EE but I am still a Comp Sci guy at my core). Also, I am trying to remember some sage advice I received many, many years ago — something like “don’t try to make your dissertation a masterpiece…the immediate goal is to graduate…there’ll be plenty of time to do something ‘great’ later”. Continue reading “Lit Research: Getting Started”

The Journey of a Thousand Miles…

…begins with one step. This famous Lao Tzu quote embodies the very purpose for this blog. While most blogs are for entertaining or educating online readers, this blog (or should I say “journal”) is a living record of my time matriculating at Virginia Tech as a “student”, a “candidate” and eventually a “graduate”. The posts will reflect the various stages of literature research, lab work, coursework, department activities and degree program milestones. I fully expect my blog posts to include a few inaccuracies, misrepresentations and the occasional typo. Nonetheless, as both successes and failures are part of the development process, I intend to “write” until I get it “right”.

One step closer (OSC)…