The research team is working to better secure the microstructure architecture of next-generation wireless systems and develop a new framework to transform it into a self-protecting entity.

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Guofei Gu, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, is the lead principal investigator of a research team that has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Resilient and Intelligent Next-Generation Systems (RINGS) program to enhance the security of future wireless and mobile network systems.

The RINGS program seeks to ensure the security and resiliency of next-generation (NextG) wireless and mobile communication, sensing, computing and networking systems that will support essential services.

NextG systems are expected to connect billions of Internet of Things devices and users, and provide personalized computational and storage resources for highly critical data in real time with little delay. In order to host so many application services, NextG will use edge computing, which refers to computing services that are physically located near the user or source of the data instead of miles away at the core of a traditional cloud data system. This way, the corresponding device can provide quick responses. For example, future autonomous vehicles may require NextG to support application services to perform computations, store and process critical data from their various sensors, manage vehicle-to-vehicle communications and run their deep-learning algorithms.

To ensure that the billions of NextG-supported services remain scalable and reliable, it will feature microservice architecture, which is composed of a single application or service divided into smaller, independent processes (microservices) that each has a specific purpose. They are reusable and can be made quickly to meet demand. In addition, if a single microservice fails, it will not cause the entire application or service to crash.

However, existing microstructure architecture is not typically developed and deployed with built-in security measures. While basic security patches are available on demand to add after the fact, they are not enough to support the large volumes of critical services that NextG hosts.

To address these issues, the team has proposed to develop a new framework, NextSec, to transform the microservices into self-protecting entities that can do security enhancement protection on their own using the concept of security transformation. In addition to security transformation, NextSec also provides new primitives for supporting a software-defined way of enforcing user-to-edge-to-cloud security and offers efficient, scalable verification of complex security properties across microservices.

“NextSec is an ambitious attempt to build revolutionary capabilities for securing critical services in NextG, as well as generic edge and cloud computing,” said Gu. “This project will provide a solid foundation and collaborative community for future system and network security research.”

The co-principal investigators on the project include associate professor Jeff Huang and assistant professor Chia-Che Tsai from the computer science and engineering department and Walter Magnussen, director of the Texas A&M Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center.

For the RINGS program, the NSF partners with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and several industry partners such as Apple, Ericsson, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm and VMware.