Jordan Schnell is a junior in cyber security operations at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She participated as an NSRI Strategic Deterrence Intern in summer 2022.
Briefly describe what you worked on as a student of NSRI.
In summer 2022 I researched best practices to mitigate cyber vulnerabilities induced from the radio frequency (RF) domain to support U.S. Strategic Command efforts. Wireless networks and RF-enabled devices, such as the common smartphone, headset or printer, are vulnerable to novel attack vectors that may be exploited by malicious actors. Thus, our research focused on evaluating the threat level to the RF domain, identifying the plausible methods of testing RF attack resilience and brainstorming innovative solutions to harden RF networks.
One method of testing network security and eventually patching network vulnerabilities is to perform a penetration test of the network. Penetration tests look for flaws in network security that could be used to gain malicious access to a network. However, there are unique stipulations when attempting to utilize penetration testing for the evaluation of RF technologies due to RF range limitations. Thus, we concluded that to properly defend against future RF attacks, it is imperative to both modify existing security frameworks and employ novel RF crowdsourcing techniques. Our team identified security frameworks that, provided a few modifications, could be used to evaluate the resiliency of RF networks. Additionally, we proposed innovative solutions that provide the benefits of crowdsourced knowledge to the RF domain but are not confined by the typical range limitations of the technology.
What would your peers find most fascinating about this project?
Our summer research culminated in a brief to Lieutenant General Thomas Bussiere of the United States Strategic Command. We had the privilege of not only visiting the USSTRATCOM headquarters at Offutt AFB but also presenting our findings to senior military officials.
What is it like to work on a project for the DOD?
No matter the endeavor, I strive to work with a sense of purpose and commitment. I feel both honored and excited that I had the opportunity to advance national security through interning with NSRI.
When you think of the grander purpose of this work: decisive deterrence and defense, do you feel a sense of patriotism? Why?
Definitely! Our summer project provided a unique opportunity to contribute to national defense with our civilian background. Although the project itself was rewarding, the addition of working in an environment dedicated to strategic deterrence and defense made the experience invaluable.
Learn more about UNK cyber security programs at unk.edu.
About the National Strategic Research Institute
Through the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska leading scientists deliver innovative national security research, technology, product and strategy development, training and exercises, and subject matter expertise to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. One of only 15 DOD-designated University Affiliated Research Centers in the country, NSRI is sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and works to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats. Read about our mission.