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“As wireless spectrum is a scarce resource, protecting it from malicious users is a key in modern society”

Interview to Dr. Domenico Giustiniano, Principal Investigator of the SOCRATES project and a Research Associate Professor at IMDEA Networks Institute

Dr. Domenico Giustiniano is the head of the Pervasive Wireless Systems group at IMDEA Networks. He is also the leader of the OpenVLC project, an open-source platform for research in visible light communication networks and the co-founder of the non-profit Electrosense association, a crowd-sourcing initiative to collect and analyse spectrum data.

What are the main objectives of the SOCRATES project?

SOCRATES will create the foundations for an accurate, autonomous, fast and secure system that identifies intruders in the electromagnetic space, before the threat can become serious, detecting its properties as wireless signal and its geographic location. The problem is challenged by the advent of radio commodity technologies that have become easily available and within the budget of attackers. Current expensive, bulky and heavy specialized hardware for detecting threats in the electromagnetic space is not capable to address this problem. SOCRATES will introduce an innovative Internet of things architecture that leverages emerging trends in science and technology such as crowdsourcing, big data and deep learning in order to solve this problem.

Why is protecting the electromagnetic spectrum important?

As wireless spectrum is a scarce resource, protecting it from malicious users is a key in modern society. Protecting the spectrum means protecting the critical wireless infrastructure, such as the 5G network, GPS, aviation communication, and maintaining economic opportunities to create disruptive services. This is a huge problem both for license and unlicensed spectrum. There are several attacks that can be easily built with today's technology and online instructions. They include, for instance, fake cellular towers that intercept traffic from commercial mobile devices, false transmitters broadcasting messages with deceptive distress and urgency, jammers that block GPS signals needed for the operation of drones… In addition, license spectrum is particularly expensive, and it is of primary importance that the huge investment of telecom providers is protected.

Do you expect the results of this project to have real-world application?

Absolutely. There are several key reasons for this. First, we are leveraging the Electrosense network, that is already operative at small scale. Second, there is strong past collaboration with the partners of the project KU Leuven and Electrosense, that will allow a smooth start of the project. Third, we will use an agile approach that will allow us to produce early demonstrators within the project, and listen the feedback of potential end-users interested in the technology developed in SOCRATES.

IMDEA Networks Institute