Description:
Background
Fifth-generation (5G) systems will extensively employ radio access network (RAN) softwarization. This key innovation will ultimately allow the instantiation of “virtual cellular networks” running on shared physical infrastructure. In this invention, we take RAN softwarization in a new direction and propose the concept of Private Cellular Connectivity as a Service (PCCaaS), where infrastructure providers deploy covert network slices whose existence is known only to a subset of receivers. To concretely realize PCCaaS, a SteaLTE, the first PCCaaS-enabling system for cellular networks is utilized. SteaLTE is targeted to law enforcement and first-responders users that require access to commercial cellular networks with an additional security guarantee.
 
Technology Overview
SteaLTE implements a full-stack steganographic system with packet schedulers and procedures to properly embed covert data streams on top of traditional 4G/5G cellular traffic. 
SteaLTE combines existing error-correcting codes, adaptive modulation schemes, and ARQ techniques, and it includes a steganographic mutual authentication mechanism where legitimate parties authenticate each other before exchanging any confidential information due to the fact that covert data has to necessarily be embedded over primary cellular traffic, which is inherently unpredictable. To solve this problem, researchers designed a covert traffic embedding procedure that is flexible enough to deal with such unpredictability. SteaLTE features a covert packet generator component that creates and embeds covert packets that seamlessly adapt to primary data traffic. To successfully operate over existing cellular networks, PCaaS must adhere to standard protocol implementations regulating transmission and reception operations in 4G/5G systems. 
In order to enable undetectable SteaLTE covert communications, Northeastern University researchers have designed a scheme that adapts covert embedding procedures to hide transmissions by mimicking wireless channel noise.
 
Benefits
- Utilizes wireless steganography to disguise data as noise to adversarial receivers
- Balances undetectability and performance by proposing a mechanism that mimics channel impairments so that received waveforms are almost indistinguishable from noise
- Provides an LTE-compliant steganographic protocol stack for PCCaaS based communications 
- Details packet scheduling and procedures that properly embed covert data streams on top of traditional cellular traffic, i.e., primary traffic 
 
Applications
- Enable Private Cellular Connectivity as a Service (PCCaaS) in cellular networks
- Enable private and secure communications among cellular networks users
- Secure law enforcement and first responders’ communications through covert communications over 5G systems
 
Opportunity
- License
- Partnering
- Research collaboration
Patent Information:
Category(s):
-Networks
-Sensors tech
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
m.saulich@northeastern.edu
Inventors:
Tommaso Melodia
Leonardo Bonati
Salvatore D'Oro
Francesco Restuccia
Keywords:
5G Networks
5g NR
Cellular Networks
Next-generation Mobile Networks
Privacy
Steganography