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Empirical Security Analysis of the Wireless Emergency Alerts System

Research Team Leadership

  • Program Manager: Elaina Buhs, University of Illinois 
  • Technical Subject Matter Expert: Yih-Chun Hu, University of Illinois
  • Principal Investigator: Sangtae Ha, University of Colorado
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Dirk Grunwald, University of Colorado
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Eric Wustrow, University of Colorado
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Daniel Massey, University of Colorado

The Homeland Security Challenge
Mobile networks undergird many critical infrastructure systems, and when they go down, it can impact everything from financial services to transportation systems. The Wireless Emergency Alert system (WEA) is a critical component in the nation’s emergency response plan. This system allows the President to address the nation through mobile networks during a national emergency; however, these mobile networks are vulnerable to attacks through spoofing, data tampering, repudiation, and Telephone Denial-of-Service (TDoS). These attacks could send out false information or prevent legitimate information from ever being received.

 The COE Solution
Our work will involve understanding attack vectors and potential impacts to the WEA system in terms of severity and likelihood. We will also investigate potential solutions by investigating a variety of detection methods and testing them in real-world scenarios. CIRI aims to not only conduct research that addresses our nation’s great need to create more secure and resilient mobile infrastructure, but we also plan to develop tools to deploy these solutions to the marketplace.