Security risks of drones in 5G networks

November 19, 2020 // By Nick Flaherty
Security risks of drones in 5G networks
Researchers in Spain and the US are looking at the security risks of using drones as part of 5G networks

Researchers in Spain and the US are looking at ways drones can be used to make 5G networks more secure.

"On the one hand, it is important to protect the network when it is disturbed by a drone that has connected and generates interference. On the other, in the future, the same drones could assist in the prevention, detection, and recovery of attacks on 5G networks," said Giovanni Geraci, a researcher with the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC) at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) in Barcelona

Working with Aly Sabri Abdalla, Keith Powell and Vuk Marojevic, researchers from the Department of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at the University of the State of Mississippi, the study poses two different approaches.

The first part is the use of UAVs to prevent possible attacks, while the second is to protect the network when disturbed by a drone. "A drone could be the source of interference to users. This can happen if the drone is very high up and when its transmissions travel a long distance because there are no obstacles in the way, such as buildings," said Geraci.

Drones being used as 5G aerial basestation presents potential risks of attack. UAVs with cellular connection may experience radio propagation characteristics that are probably different from those experienced by a terrestrial user. Once a UAV flies well above ground-based basestations, they can create interference or even rogue applications, such as a mobile phone connected to a UAV without authorization.

The project is looking at jamming, spoofing, eavesdropping, and the corresponding mitigation mechanisms that can be used before attacks occur or for rapid detection and recovery. These include hot zone, safe zone, and UAV-based secondary authorization to increase the resilience and confidentiality of 5G radio access networks and services. The different approaches have been simulated, identifying the need for experimental evaluation and a research platform for prototyping and testing

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