Nick McKeown aims to ensure 5G networks are reliable and secure

image of prof Nick McKeown
March 2021

Later this year, in a lab in the Durand Building, a team of researchers will demonstrate how a tight formation of computer-controlled drones can be managed with precision even when the 5G network controlling it is under continual cyberattack. The demo's ultimate success or failure will depend on the ability of an experimental network control technology to detect the hacks and defeat them within a second to safeguard the navigation systems.

On hand to observe this demonstration will be officials from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the government agency that's underwriting Project Pronto. The $30 million effort, led by Professor Nick McKeown, is largely funded and technically supported through the nonprofit Open Networking Foundation (ONF), with help from Princeton and Cornell universities. Their goal: to make sure that the wireless world – namely, 5G networks that will support the autonomous planes, trains and automobiles of the future – remains secure and reliable as the wired networks we rely on today.

This is no small task and the consequences could not be greater. The transition to 5G will affect every device connected to the internet and, by extension, the lives of every person who relies on such networks for safe transportation. But, as recent intrusions into wired networks have shown, serious vulnerabilities exist.

The pending Pronto demo is designed to solve that problem by way of a fix that McKeown and colleagues have devised that wraps a virtually instantaneous shield around wirelessly accessible computers using a technology known as software-defined networking (SDN).

 

Excerpted from "A new Stanford initiative aims to ensure 5G networks are reliable and secure", Stanford News, March 24, 2021.

 

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