Waterloo's Cheriton researchers lead university and industry consortium to develop secure 5G mobile networks, advance Canada’s security and defence

Wednesday, January 11, 2023
  • The project will focus on secure and reliable end-to-end network slicing for 5G mobile and beyond networks in collaboration with leading Canadian companies including BlackBerry, Rockport Networks, and NoviFlow
  • BlackBerry to develop novel technologies to support Zero Trust approach to software supply chain
  • Rockport scale fabrics to support AI at the edge for safety-critical autonomous systems
  • NoviFlow high-performance SDN network operating software to support the deployment of the multi-access edge cloud


WATERLOO, Ontario — January 11, 2023 — Today, the University of Waterloo announced a 5G and beyond mobile network technology consortium funded by the Department of National Defence (DND) to improve Canada’s security and defence through its Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program. A team of computer scientists at the University of Waterloo is leading the $1.5 million multi-partner consortium.

Called the “Secure and reliable end-to-end network slicing for 5G and beyond mobile networks,” the three-year project brings together academic and industry partners from École de technologie supérieure in Montréal, University of Regina, BlackBerry, NoviFlow, and Rockport Networks, with support from Rogers Communications Canada to create new solutions to secure 5G mobile networks. This latest global wireless standard delivers reliable, high-speed data transfers with ultra-low latency — advanced communications technology that is transforming businesses, industries, and nations.

photo of Raouf Boutaba, Noura Limam and Diogo Barradas

Research team at Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science.

L to R: Professor and Director Raouf Boutaba (project principal investigator), Research Professor Noura Limam (project co-investigator and coordinator), and Professor Diogo Barradas (project co-investigator)

“Our mobile communications networks can be sliced using software into fit-for-purpose networks that operate virtually, each with a different degree of isolation and level of quality-of-service to meet security and performance requirements,” said Professor Raouf Boutaba, the project’s principal investigator and director of Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science. “However, network softwarization also introduces vulnerabilities that can compromise services, including slices. The goal of the consortium is to deploy 5G network slices that not only have high performance, flexibility and reliability but also have increased security levels required for critical applications.”

“The solution we are developing will have many, long-lasting impacts on Canadian industry and defence,” said Dr. Noura Limam, a research professor at the Cheriton School of Computer Science and the project’s coordinator. “Applications that range as widely as healthcare, public safety, emergency response and unmanned vehicles will benefit from these secure, responsive 5G network slices, positioning Canada as a leader in 5G and beyond mobile networks. Additionally, the innovations developed in collaboration with our industry partners — Rockport Networks, NoviFlow and BlackBerry — will further Canada’s economic prosperity.”

 Key contributions from BlackBerry, Rockport Networks, and NoviFlow include the following: 

  • BlackBerry: 5G introduces Software-Defined Networking capabilities which allow network operations to flexibly change and is combined with a “softwarization” of networks where bespoke networking hardware is being replaced with software, thus changing the nature of the networking software supply chain. BlackBerry will leverage its knowledge of software supply chain security to build new solutions for identifying and blocking the insertion of malicious software into the 5G supply chain.
  • Rockport Networks: the scale fabrics innovator will provide University of Waterloo researchers with resilient, high-performance local area networks to power safety-critical AI workloads at the 5G edge. Rockport distributes switching to the edge for faster processing, ultra-low latency and high availability in a smaller, cost-efficient and low power footprint than centralized architectures. 
  • NoviFlow: the multi-terabyte Software-Defined Networking solutions with programmable network fabric developed by NoviFlow will provide University of Waterloo with the technology needed for deploying a high-performance and scalable Multi-Access Edge Cloud for on-demand deployment of security functions at the network edge.

Among the technologies the consortium will develop are artificial intelligence systems to detect a range of cyberattacks on 5G network slices as they happen, then respond quickly and automatically with countermeasures to keep the network secure. Additionally, security requirements will be built into the 5G network slices themselves using end-to-end network slice orchestration that responds dynamically to an application’s security requirements and the severity of threats.

Ultimately, the various solutions will be integrated with the consortium’s partner and collaborator technologies to create a proof-of-concept on the University of Waterloo–Rogers 5G testbed.

Supporting quotes from BlackBerry, Rockport Networks, and NoviFlow

“With both individuals and businesses increasingly relying on 5G connectivity in their personal and professional lives, the attractiveness of 5G networks as a target for malicious threat actors has expanded exponentially,” said Charles Eagan, Chief Technology Officer at BlackBerry. “This IDEaS consortium is an opportunity to join forces to mitigate or eliminate multiple and connected cybersecurity risks. We couldn’t be more excited to bring our multi-sector expertise in end-to-end AI-driven cybersecurity and the Internet of Things to the table and we look forward to working with both the University of Waterloo, NoviFlow, and Rockport to ensure the 5G mobile technology of tomorrow is both secure and protected.”

“Rockport Networks is pleased to be a part of this effort to build secure, high-performance edge computing capabilities that will fuel innovation in AI,” said Phil Harris, CEO, Rockport Networks. “We look forward to collaborating with the University of Waterloo and our consortium partners to push the boundaries of 5G slicing for AI and IoT use cases.” 

“NoviFlow is excited and proud to be part of this Consortium of Canadian academic and commercial leaders focused on 5G, cybersecurity, and multi-access edge computing (MEC),” said Dominique Jodoin, President and CEO of NoviFlow. “This DND IDEaS challenge is a great opportunity to extend the usage of NoviFlow’s high-performance programmable network and security fabric beyond the existing use cases already widely deployed by communications service providers (CSPs) and Hyperscalers around the world.”

ABOUT UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO
University of Waterloo is a leading global innovation hub that drives economic and social prosperity for Canada and the world. We are home to a renowned talent pipeline, game-changing research and technology, and unmatched entrepreneurial culture, that together create solutions to tackle today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

A strategic integration of research and teaching excellence, the world’s largest co-operative education program, entrepreneurship-intensive programs, and creator-owned IP, has resulted in extensive industry collaboration, the generation of thousands of commercial and social enterprises, and a dynamic learning experience for more than 41,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Find out more at https://uwaterloo.ca.

ABOUT ÉCOLE DE TECHNOLOGIE SUPÉRIEURE (ÉTS) – Montréal 
ÉTS is one of ten constituents of the University of Québec network. It trains engineers and researchers who are recognized for their practical and innovative approach, the development of new technologies and their skills at transferring their knowledge to companies. Almost one-quarter of all engineers in Québec graduated from ÉTS, which boasts 11,000 students, including 2,650 at the graduate and post-graduate level. ÉTS specializes in applied training and research in engineering, and maintains a unique partnership with the business sector and with industry.

For more information, please visit https://www.etsmtl.ca.

ABOUT UNIVERSITY OF REGINA
The University of Regina — with campuses located on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 territories, the ancestral lands of the Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Lakota and Nakoda nations and the homeland of the Métis — is a comprehensive, mid-sized university that traces its roots back to the creation of Regina College in 1911. Today, more than 16,000 students study within the University’s 10 faculties, 25 academic departments/schools, 18 research centres and institutes, and three federated colleges (Campion College, First Nations University of Canada, and Luther College). The University of Regina has an established reputation for excellence and innovative programs that lead to undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

For more information, please visit https://www.uregina.ca

ABOUT IDEaS
Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) is a defence innovation program which invests in research and technology aimed at meeting the demands of today’s complex global defence and security environment. The program enables Canada to deliver the capabilities needed for a strong and agile military by providing financial support to foster innovation through contracts, contribution agreements and grants. The IDEaS program helps innovators by supporting analysis, funding research, and developing processes that facilitate access to knowledge. It also supports testing, integration, adoption, and acquisition of creative solutions for Canada’s defence and security communities. 

To learn more, please visit the IDEaS website.

ABOUT NOVIFLOW
NoviFlow Inc. is a world leader in programmable network solutions that deliver Terabit performance for SRv6, 5G MEC, Packet Brokering, Operational Monitoring, and Service Programming for VNFs and network services deployed in production by Tier 1 carriers around the world. Our solutions simplify networks by running load balancing, service chaining, packet brokering and filtering directly in the switch, reducing service costs up to 90%, footprint by 75% and energy costs by 67%.

For more information, please visit http://noviflow.com. Follow NoviFlow on Twitter @NoviFlowInc

ABOUT ROCKPORT NETWORKS
Rockport Networks delivers the next generation of scale fabrics to accelerate AI and HPC innovation. Rockport is reimagining the system infrastructure model of the data center with networking solutions designed for scale, resiliency and sustainability — all with the right economics. Headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, Rockport has offices and projects spanning international markets with Centers of Excellence in Europe and North America.

Learn more at rockportnetworks.com and follow Rockport Networks on Twitter and LinkedIn.

CONTACTS

University of Waterloo
Raouf Boutaba, Professor and Director
David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science
cs-director@uwaterloo.ca 
(519) 888-4080

ÉTS-Montréal
Rami Langar, Professor
Software and IT Engineering Department
rami.langar@etsmtl.ca 
(514) 396-8694

University of Regina
Nashid Shahriar, Assistant Professor
Department of Computer Science
Nashid.Shahriar@uregina.ca
(306) 585-4061

NoviFlow
Marc LeClerc
NoviFlow Inc.
marketing@noviflow.com 
(438) 807-4363

Rockport Networks
Trisha Cooke, CMO
tcooke@rockportnetworks.com 
(613) 608-6417

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