Cybersecurity for Safe Underwater Acoustic Communications

A project sponsored by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme under grant no. G5884.

Mission of the project

Underwater acoustic communications (UWAC) is increasingly perceived as a cost-effective ocean exploration and monitoring means. However, while carrying out these tasks, UWAC devices are left unattended over long periods of time and may become vulnerable to external attacks. The recent introduction of standards protocols for UWAC makes these attacks more viable.

In SAFE-UComm, we explore new ways to secure UWAC against attackers. Our solutions eliminate the need to change existing modems or include encryption systems, and rather provide a protective layer that can be added to any modem, offering a practical solution to underwater cybersecurity.

The problem

Autonomous underwater acoustic communication devices are vulnerable to several cybersecurity attacks. This is an issue of increasingly greater concern when these devices carry out safety-critical or tactical tasks.

The solution

We are designing a full cyber-security suite for underwater communications, including authentication, privacy, and biomimetic signal detection functions. For this, we exploit unique underwater acoustic channel characteristics.

International effort

We bring together expertise from three NATO countries and one Partner country. Our co-directors bear a long-standing expertise in communications, networking, signal processing, security, hardware, and field trials.

Theory into practice

We back rigorous theoretical results with sea experiments featuring real hardware, different systems, and complex equipment such as drifters and autonomous underwater vehicles.

Want to know more?

Follow up with the structure, specific activities and time line of our project, consult the list of partners, or check our publications page.