In Part Two of this blog series, we discussed the rising need for standards in 4G and 5G network environments as well as an introduction to the benefits of modeling and simulation for 5G networks. In Part Two, we will look further into these techniques with respect to proficiency training, cyber situational awareness, and network analysis. We will conclude with a look at the technological advantages that may come about due to these measures. Did you miss Part One?
New Techniques for 5G Network Environments
Historically, training systems would use traffic generators to generate web, email, or file transfer traffic. This is good for some of the networks’ representative traffic, but today’s network is dominated by mobile application traffic. As networks progress towards 5G and new IoT systems are added every day, the warfighter will need to more increasingly rely on modeling and simulation platforms as a training tool to accurately and precisely understand what is happening in the cyber domain. Platforms that can support high-fidelity, hardware in the loop (HIL) mix-and-match overlay of live components from numerous manufacturers with “generic” components that emulate live elements provide an ideal environment for training, understanding, and assessing networks, network attacks, and failures.
The objective of these new techniques is to provide enough knowledge gain for military service members to be as effective as possible when supporting mission operations and to prepare the warfighter to rehearse and operate effectively across an interconnected warfighting domain, including both cyber and physical (land, sea, air) environments.
Preparing the warfighter begins in the classroom by using modeling and simulation systems which instructors can use with teams to provide hands-on training on the fundamentals of mobile networks and how cyber network attacks happen for mobile devices (handsets, IoT devices, telematics systems, Industrial Control Sensors (ICS) sensors). Modeling and simulation platforms provide the opportunity for hands-on understanding of network element functions and roles within the larger system of systems used to provide service to the mobile network user. This helps the warfighter understand that handsets and other customer equipment attach and operate on the network by communicating via signaling and data messages to the EPC and not just the cellular tower, otherwise known as the Radio Access Network (RAN).
For 5G environments, simply taking out the cell tower in a region will likely not affect communications for users in the 5G area, like it would in a 4G environment. In a 4G environment, users will lose service. In a 5G environment, because there are multiple access points, including new mmWave and cmWave, the user’s equipment will merely receive service from a subset of access points. Similarly, global effects are mitigated at the 5G layer due to the virtualized and distributed nature of the systems. However, in the global core, by training the warfighter to understand how data centers are used to provide compute resources for the EPC, they can develop and rehearse missions that meet mission requirements.
Cyber Situational Awareness and Network Analysis
Proficiency training provides the necessary background and fundamental understanding of relevant terms, network topology, and system operation. This enables the warfighter to now leverage this understanding for greater cyber situational awareness and network analysis of various cyber-attacks.
The SCALABLE Network Technologies Exata Modeling and Simulation Platform (the Platform) can be used to model cyber-attacks within a cellular network. The tool provides the ability to jam the 4G/5G waveform using reactive jamming and an API to extend this to protocol-aware jamming. The cyber analysis and network analysis are integrated into a single emulation application to allow the user to measure the cyber resilience of a network while simultaneously demonstrating the effect of such attacks on the applications themselves.
Diversity of signals from RF space provides resiliency to the operator of the handset, and this creates additional challenges to the warfighter looking to create local kinetic or non-kinetic effect in a contested environment. For 5G environments, simply taking out the cell tower in a region will likely not effect communications for users in the 5G area, like it would in a 4G environment. In a 4G environment, the base stations tend to be Macro cells or Metro cells that operate at much higher power levels and thus cover a larger range. There is also less overlap of cells within a 4G environment. As a result, 4G users will lose service. In a 5G environment, because there are multiple access points, with many of those access points overlaid, the user’s equipment will merely receive service from a subset of access points. Similarly, global effects are mitigated at the 5G layer by nature of the virtualized and distributed nature of the systems. However, in global core, by training the warfighter to understand how data centers are used to provide compute resources for the EPC, they can develop and rehearse missions that meet mission requirements.
Enabling efficient and informative mission rehearsal for the cyber warfighter can be achieved through the use of modeling and simulation platforms. After the cyber-physical mission scenario is defined, the trainee can walk through various cyber situational awareness and network analysis scenarios. The Platform allows the trainee to repeat these exercises and select different NE configurations, switch to a different AOR, alter network architecture, and ultimately re-play the exercise to observe and understand potential impacts. After several exercises like this, trainees establish a familiarity with the network environment in various forms. Trainees can now leverage their understanding of the network to choose where to deploy a kinetic effect. From here, the trainee can experiment with different network implementations or choose to fail different NEs to see how it affects the failure rates at different locations within the network. These are just a few examples of how modeling and simulation can be utilized to better prepare the warfighter to operate in a cyber domain. Depending on objectives, the warfighter may choose to employ other services or capabilities to meet mission objectives. Regardless of the approach, being able to test and evaluate each potential course of action in a closed and repeatable environment with analysis of results is ideal. This enables the warfighter to understand the effectiveness of candidate operations and define metrics for the percentage of users that would be expected to lose service.
High-fidelity modeling and simulation platforms coupled with tangible real-world training scenarios, will enable the U.S. warfighter and cyber community to maintain its technological advantage as mobile networks evolve to become a more important part of our everyday lives. With 5G networks, the increased diversity of signals from RF space provides resiliency to the operator and better protects the network from cyber- attack. By creating a platform that can support high-fidelity, hardware in the loop (HIL) mix-and-match overlay of live components from numerous manufacturers with “generic” components that emulate UEs, Base Stations, and backhaul components, we can best train, understand, and assess networks, network attacks and failures on specific cellular network devices. Training the warfighter will best enable them to understand the networks ever increasing complexity and how cyber effects may perturb the network.
These approaches and results were achieved using the integrated CACI LiveRANTM and SCALABLE Network Technologies EXata® Modeling and Simulation platform (referred to as the Platform). You can learn more by downloading the complete whitepaper.