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Network modelling and simulation tools

Network modelling and simulation tools can help protect critical assets, whether these are commercial or part of critical infrastructure.

They include:

• Utilities
• Defence
• 5G mobile networks
• Autonomous vehicles

These specialist tools can also support network planning, and help in the design and improvement of those products and processes where network communication is a key element.

Improving cyber resilience across different sectors and industries has become a priority in a world where a cyber threat is keeping pace with technological advances.

These improvements can only be effective if they are based on sound knowledge and understanding both of how systems work and what the potential threats to them will be.

Modelling and simulation tools provide highly-effective and adaptable means of testing capabilities, analysing performance, training for cyber awareness and devising new approaches to protection against disruption and threats.

Simulation platforms for mobile networks, and for various forms of network emulation, offer a valuable source of support for developers and end-users to boost cyber protection and defence systems in often critical situations.

Specific tools for network modelling and simulation include:

• EXata
• QualNet
• Network Defense Trainer

Network planning

Technology depends on effective communications systems and infrastructure that networks provide.

Mobile networks are the key to most modern communication. As we progress from 3G and 4G mobile networks to more advanced 5G systems, our dependency on them grows.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is making smart technology more accessible and prevalent than ever. Consequently, network planning for 5G rollout has taken on a whole new significance.

An essential part of this planning must be to anticipate potential cyber threats and disruption, to see how 5G networks will perform, and to use this knowledge to develop more resilient networks.

What modelling and simulation platforms and tools can do is create the ‘What if?’ and ‘as if’ conditions that will then test the capability, resilience and performance of networks.

As 5G environments expand, the reach of mobile networks is set to become broader than ever, not just in geographic coverage, but also in the relationships they have with the physical world.

This interface between digital and physical is the perfect testing ground for modelling and simulation applications. It is a vital bridge between the laboratory and real-world conditions, and the implications for major sectors and industries are hugely important.

Practical uses for these tools include optimisation of location and capabilities of telecoms hardware; analysis of network performance; training for those users of these networks in a variety of critical, professional settings.

Each of these tools has applications in industries and sectors where cyber resilience is absolutely essential, as we shall see.

EXata

EXata enables developers to design and evolve models for networking technologies.

As we have outlined, these technologies can have a prevalent, influential presence in the real world. One such example is the autonomous vehicles, or self-driving, car.

Autonomous vehicles are no longer a distant promise of the future, but very much a currently developing technology that is expected to see significant growth. They depend largely on V2X communications.

V2X stands for ‘vehicle-to-everything’. These systems enable vehicles to communicate with the moving traffic system components around them. For this form of advanced intelligent transportation to work, it must be safe, reliable and efficient.

It is a highly-dynamic, demanding environment with potentially thousands of moving vehicles and changing environmental conditions.

How then to test this technology effectively without putting people at risk? EXata is the answer. Using wireless emulation, it works with dedicated short-range communications radios (DSRC) to keep test costs and requirements manageable.

Its simulation capabilities include urban environments, vehicle mobility, and situations where there is signal fading, interference and path loss.

EXata is also adaptable to emerging cellular technology, such as C-V2X, which is set to upgrade to 5G.

In this way, simulation and emulation tools can keep pace with the automotive industries own technological advances, ensuring that the need to test systems does not slow down either progress or their implementation.

As autonomous vehicles become a reality for more and more people, so their continuing performance and safety will be critical to their success and widespread adoption.

EXata can replicate conditions and scenarios for autonomous vehicles to provide invaluable analytical information and ensure their safety.

QualNet

QualNet is simulation software that allows users to mimic the real behaviour of communications networks.

This works for the entire lifecycle of a network, and it means users can try out different combinations of features to see what their impact will be.

Where there are large-scale, complex communications networks, QualNet provides a cost-effective, highly adaptable and practical means of testing and analysing them.

Because it simulates the behaviour of these networks, it reduces risk and saves on both time and resources.

The threat of disruption does not always come from criminal activity. Where networks require upgrading, it is important for organisations to understand the implications, and to be able to iron out issues in advance.

Otherwise the risk is downtime or, worse, extensive disruption and possible data loss. The economic and reputational fall out can be considerable.

Similarly, QualNet can model environments where wireless mobile equipment will be crucial, whether these are on land, sea or in the air.

QualNet’s adaptability as a simulation tool means that it can be a regularly deployed form of advanced support for network-dependent bodies.

Network Defense Trainer

The modern warrior is a cyber one. This is not a science fiction concept, but represents real conditions in which the defence industry operates. However, it is not only there that is mission critical.

Large bodies, such as public utilities, banks and critical infrastructure systems are heavily reliant on the integrity of their communications networks, whether these are wired or wireless.

Threats to their cyber resilience come in the form of viral attacks, hacking and other activities.

The implications can be wide-ranging. GCHQ has reported that attacks on the oil and gas industry could cause unprecedented damage.

Communications networks support vital ecosystems where physical activities depend on digital computation and networking. Cyberattacks can disrupt these ecosystems with potentially catastrophic results.

Therefore, the mission of these bodies is to realistically prepare themselves for cyberattack and protect themselves from threat.

In other words, cyber defence is a wide-ranging issue.

In the field, armed forces personnel are dependent on good communications and therefore understanding what the potential impact of disruption on these might be is crucial.

Similarly, other industries need a cost-effective solution that will properly prepare them for disruption and enable them to develop robust cyber defences.

Network Defense Trainer (NDT) provides a hyper-realistic, emulation environment in which users can experience how systems would behave if they were under attack.

Because it is an advanced training tool, it means users can repeat exercises with whatever critical variations are necessary, providing the perfect learning-by-example training tool.

NDT draws on unique network emulation technology, running in real-time. It is integrable with the procedures and protocols of specific users, bringing them as close to a real-world cyberattack as possible.

Simulation training is adaptable across different fields while enabling trainees to put their skills and knowledge into practice. It provides a fully immersive environment for hands-on experience.

Conclusion

Mobile networks now have a broad reach, penetrating different areas of people’s lives and the critical infrastructures of economies and countries.

This goes far beyond the signal strength of mobile devices. Because we are now so reliant on communications, we are also vulnerable to threats to them.

What organisations, businesses and other bodies require is an effective means of testing and assessing capabilities, and of training people effectively in all aspects of network communication.

Modelling and simulation tools for mobile networks address key issues in both development and training:

• EXata is a specialist tool for developers. Its network emulation software enables them to develop and test scenarios for network technologies by mimicking a real network. Optimising performance is vital, and this form of testing is an efficient way of doing so.

• QualNet is a turnkey simulation solution for users who want to run ‘What if?’ scenarios, test new devices in operational conditions or the potential effects of upgrades or other changes.

• Network Defense Trainer is a cyber-awareness training tool which provides an immersive training environment for users. It is adaptable to different conditions, allowing trainees to learn and apply knowledge in hyper-realistic situations.

For more details about specialist Network Modelling and Simulation tools, please contact us.

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