“Introducing Cognitive Radio Technologies to Manage the Risk Environment Native to a Software Defined Radio Implementation of Positive Train Control.”
Though there is a tremendous research effort towards maturing software defined radio (SDR) to cognitive radio technologies, it is narrowly focused on spectrum access or performance tuning. An alternative approach is to create a cognition cycle that facilitates risk management and improves the radio’s security posture. In the instances where SDR technologies represent a critical infrastructure, this advancement would be novel and paramount. As mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, trains are incorporating SDR technologies in their implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) – a distributed system enhancing the train’s communications with the command and control infrastructure, railway switches, and crossings to address the numerous safety considerations in rail operations. There are risk models for rail operations and PTC is designed to ensure high-risk environments are avoided or mitigated through adjustments in the operation of the train (assuming they receive the associated PTC status message). This dissertation introduces a risk engine that can be incorporated as a cognition cycle in PTC architectures currently under development. It provides awareness of heightened risk to the communication system availability based on environmental factors and, more importantly, adversarial attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in SDR technologies. Using the Information Systems Security Engineering process as a framework, the risk engine is introduced as a natural progression of the required security analysis for a newly fielded system. To predict its performance in the intended operational environment, case studies of example railroads are simulated. Findings are discussed to assess potential effectiveness as well as highlight challenges. The dissertation concludes with significant aspects of further research.
Andre' Abadie is a doctoral candidate in Information Technology at the Volgenau School of Engineering, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. His research interests are in the management of secure information systems and information assurance for government
and military operational environments. He holds a Masters in Government Information Leadership from the National Defense University, a Masters in Military Art and Science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, a Masters in Information Assurance
from the University of Maryland University College, and a Bachelors in Computer Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy.