Syed Rafiul Hussain

Assistant Professor
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, School of EECS
The Pennsylvania State University
W305 Westgate Bldg, University Park, PA 16802
E-mail: hussain1_AT_psu_DOT_edu
Phone: 814-865-6454

About Me

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Prior to joining Penn State in fall 2020, I worked as a postdoc at Purdue University from where I received my Ph.D. in fall 2018. I have received the NSF CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 2022.

My research interest broadly lies in the areas of network and systems security. I lead the Systems and Network Security (SyNSec) research group, which focuses on improving the security and privacy postures of emerging networks and complex systems, including cellular networks, Internet-of-Things (IoT), embedded devices, software-defined networking, and cloud infrastructures.  We take a holistic approach to fundamentally enhance the security and privacy investigation of a system from the ground up, i.e., starting from analyzing designs, evaluating implementations, monitoring the runtime, and building verified/high-assurance defenses. As part of this process, we combine theory and practice by drawing inspiration from formal methods, program analysis, software testing, signal processing, and cryptography.

Our research results have led to a number of changes in the design of 4G and 5G cellular standards. In addition, our work has been discussed by the Federal Communication Council (FCC)  as well as covered by more than 100+ media outlets worldwide, including the New York Times, Forbes, The Washington Post, ACM Technews, and MIT Technology Review. The software artifacts from my research group have also been made open-source.

Recent News

NSF Convergence Accelerator on 5G proposal has been awarded!
NSF CNS Large proposal on sustainability has been awarded!
May’22: DARPA Young Faculty Award proposal has been awarded!
Selected as a DARPA Riser!
NSF CAREER proposal has been awarded!
February’22: Invited to serve on the PC of IEEE S&P’23.
October’21: CacTUs – Building Privacy-Preserving Smart Camera Systems has been accepted to PETS’22. Congratulations, Yohan!
DIKEUE – Noncompliance as Deviant Behavior: An Automated Black-box Noncompliance Checker for 4G LTE Cellular Devices – has been accepted to CCS’21.
Acknowledged by GSMA on their Mobile Security Research Acknowledgments (formerly known as Hall of Fame) page for uncovering and fixing implementation flaws/weaknesses in 4G and 5G networks.
July’21: ProChecker accepted for publication to ICDCS’21 has been nominated for the Best Paper Award.
March’21: Inducted by GSMA in the Mobile Security Research Hall of Fame for identifying design flaws/weaknesses in 4G and 5G networks.
A paper dubbed ProChecker on security analysis of 4G LTE protocol implementations has been accepted to ICDCS’21.
Paper on defense against 5G fake base station has been accepted to AsiaCCS’21.
Gave a talk at Ohio State Cybersecurity Lecture Series.
January’21: Invited to serve on the PC of ICNP’21.
December’20: PHOENIX has been accepted to NDSS’21.
Invited to serve on the PC of ESORICS’21 and SACMAT’21.
Presented the keynote talk at the IEEE VNC’20.
December’20: Gave an invited talk at the NSysS’20.
Intel has awarded $27K for our IoT protocol security work. 
Invited to serve on the PC of Usenix Security’21 (fall and winter cycles).
ATFuzzer (journal version) has been accepted for publication to Digital Threats: Research and Practice.
August’20: Invited to serve on the PC of NDSS’21-fall.
August’20: Invited to serve on the PC of ASIACCS’21.
August’20: PatrIoT has been conditionally accepted to Runtime Verification’20.
July’20: Invited to serve on the PC of WebConf’21.
April’20: Paper on Zigbee security has been accepted to WiSec’20. Congratulations to Weicheng and Fabrizio!
January’20: Invited to serve on the PC of ESORICS’20.
January’20: PKI based defense against fake base stations has been featured by Wired and News Dio.
December’19: ATFuzzer has been awarded the Best Paper Award at ACSAC’19.
November’19: 5GReasoner has been featured by Wired, TechCrunch, Forbes, MIT Technology Review, Yahoo Finance, and 70+ other media outlets worldwide.
November’19: ATFuzzer has been featured in TechCrunch, Xiaomi, Deep Security News, My Digi Tech, Android Police, and 40+ other media outlets all over the world.
October’19: Intel awarded $72K for our work on IoT security.
October’19: Inducted by GSMA in the Mobile Security Research Hall of Fame for identifying design flaws/weaknesses in 5G network.
October’19: Side Channel Attacks in 4G and 5G Cellular Networks got accepted for presenting in Black Hat Europe’19.
August’19: ATFuzzer got accepted to ACSAC’19. Congrats to Imtiaz and Fabrizio! My first work as a mentor!
August’19: “Protecting the 4G and 5G Cellular Paging Protocols against Security and Privacy Attacks” got accepted to PETS’20. Congrats to Ankush!
July’19: 5GReasoner got accepted to CCS’19.
March’19: “Securing the Insecure Link of Internet-of-Things Using Next-Generation Smart Gateways” got accepted to DCOSS’19.
March’19: “Insecure Connection Bootstrapping in Cellular Networks: The Root of All Evil” got accepted to WiSec’19.
February’19: Our NDSS’19 paper has been featured by Washington Post, Wired, TechCrunch, MSN News, The Hacker News, and 100+ other media outlets worldwide.
December’18: Qualcomm awarded $10K for our work on cellular network security.
December’18: Intel awarded $65K for our work on cellular network security.
November’18: “Privacy Attacks to the 4G and 5G Cellular Paging Protocols Using Side-Channel Information” got accepted to NDSS’19. Best Paper Award Honorable Mention.
March 18: Our NDSS’18 paper has been featured by New York Times, Forbes, CNet, ACM Tech News, ZDNet, The Register, and 100+ other media outlets worldwide.

Postdoc Openings: I am looking for Postdocs expert in formal methods (e.g., model checking, interactive theorem proving) or programming languages (e.g., program analysis and synthesis) and interested in applying theories of formal methods and programming languages to systems and networking. Contact me if you are interested in the position.

Graduate Research Openings: I am looking for self-motivated students interested in security to join in Fall’23. We are still accepting applications for Fall’22. Drop me an email with your CV if you want to share your interests with me. If you are not currently at Penn State but are interested in my research, please apply to the program and make sure to mention my name as a faculty member you are interested in working with.

Undergraduate Research Openings: I have openings for Penn State undergraduates to take part in research projects and have hands-on experiences. Drop me an email to further discuss.

Honors & Awards


National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award

CAREER: Principled Approaches to Securing Next-Generation Cellular Networks

Proposal Abstract

DAPRA Young Faculty Award (YFA)

The objective of the DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) program is to identify and engage rising stars in junior research positions, emphasizing those without prior DARPA funding, and expose them to DoD needs and DARPA’s program development process.


Selected as a DARPA Riser

DARPA recognizes the up-and-coming standouts whose research is related to national security and demonstrates the potential to lead to technological surprise — the heart of DARPA's mission. The Risers program provides individuals in the early stages of their research career a unique opportunity to be recognized for their notable work and present their ideas directly to DARPA.

DARPA Risers 2022

Nominated for the Best Paper Award, IEEE ICDCS'21

ProChecker: An Automated Security and Privacy Analysis Framework for 4G LTE Protocol Implementations, in 41st IEEE International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS), 2021.


Distinguished Paper Award, ACSAC'19

Opening Pandora’s Box through ATFuzzer: Dynamic Analysis of AT Interface for Android Smartphones, The 35th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), 2019.


Inducted in Mobile Security Research Hall of Fame

Inducted by GSMA in the Mobile Security Research Hall of Fame for identifying security and privacy flaws in 4G and 5G cellular networks.


Distinguished Paper Award Honorable Mention, NDSS'19

Privacy Attacks to the 4G and 5G Cellular Paging Protocols Using Side Channel Information, in the 26th Network and Distributed Systems Security (NDSS), 2019


Nominated for the Best Paper Award, ACM SIGBED EWSN'17

SeamBlue: Seamless Bluetooth Low Energy Connection Migration for Unmodified IoT Devices, in ACM SIGBED International Conference on Embedded Wireless Systems and Networks (EWSN).


Intel Security RAship award for Spring 2017.

Supported my research on IoT security


IEEE Symposium on Security & Privacy travel grant

The grant allowed me to attend the conference, meet with great minds, and learn from the senior researchers.


CERIAS Symposium Best Poster Award Runner Up

Presented the work "Monitoring DBMS Activity for Detecting Data Exfiltration by Insiders"


University merit scholarship and Dean's List Award

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology