How to Attack and Defend NextG Radio Access Network Slicing With Reinforcement Learning

Yi Shi, Yalin E. Sagduyu, Tugba Erpek, M. Cenk Gursoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In this paper, reinforcement learning (RL) for network slicing is considered in next generation (NextG) radio access networks, where the base station (gNodeB) allocates resource blocks (RBs) to the requests of user equipments and aims to maximize the total reward of accepted requests over time. Based on adversarial machine learning, a novel over-the-air attack is introduced to manipulate the RL algorithm and disrupt NextG network slicing. The adversary observes the spectrum and builds its own RL based surrogate model that selects which RBs to jam subject to an energy budget with the objective of maximizing the number of failed requests due to jammed RBs. By jamming the RBs, the adversary reduces the RL algorithm's reward. As this reward is used as the input to update the RL algorithm, the performance does not recover even after the adversary stops jamming. This attack is evaluated in terms of both the recovery time and the (maximum and total) reward loss, and it is shown to be much more effective than benchmark (random and myopic) jamming attacks. Different reactive and proactive defense schemes such as suspending the RL algorithm's update once an attack is detected, introducing randomness to the decision process in RL to mislead the learning process of the adversary, or manipulating the feedback (NACK) mechanism such that the adversary may not obtain reliable information are introduced to show that it is viable to defend NextG network slicing against this attack, in terms of improving the RL algorithm's reward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Open Journal of Vehicular Technology
StatePublished - 2023


  • NextG security
  • adversarial machine learning
  • defense
  • jamming
  • network slicing
  • radio access network
  • reinforcement learning
  • wireless attack

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Automotive Engineering


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