Designing for Security in 5G Networks

By: Mary O'Neill

Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and consumers expect great things from 5G. Yet disruptive technologies such as 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the cloud are quickly changing the technology landscape and are creating many potential cyber-risks for malicious attacks. Cybersecurity statistics reveal a huge increase in hacked and breached data from sources that are increasingly common in the workplace, like mobile and IoT-connected devices. 

In fact, in the first six months of 2019, data breaches exposed 4.1 billion records. With 5G being a complete transformation of the end-to-end network from the radio via the transport to the core, attacks can affect millions of interconnected and vulnerable nodes.

In this era of 5G, consumers and businesses will demand that their data is confidential, privacy is respected, and operations and transactions are secure. New use cases and the adoption of new networking methods demand a different approach to security for 5G on top of standardized and already existing safeguards. This new approach necessitates security operations that are both predictive and automated. Also, CSPs will need to increasingly utilize analytics and machine learning, orchestration and workflows and threat intelligence to ensure rapid and efficient responses to threats.

Many 5G-enabled use cases require inherent security that exceeds existing 3GPP standards and encompasses security automation, orchestration, analytics, and machine learning to detect and mitigate threats. Building this security into 5G networks means treating the entire network as a sensor as well as a shield. Data is now taken from many or even all existing 4G and 5G systems and is used to provide a much greater level of insight than in the past. The triggered responses to threats or security issues are achieved through automated workflows that incorporate business processes. This approach detects an irregularity and then suggests a way to fix it based upon standard playbooks. Today, this is done in the best case by scripting, but this new, extensive 5G security automation frees up the security experts to focus on more immediate or higher-priority threats.

Building trust: a growth opportunity for CSPs

As 5G becomes a reality, CSPs are seeing enormous potential to create new revenue streams by offering innovative and highly anticipated 5G services to new customers and industry segments. However, CSP success depends strongly on their ability to build digital trust to ensure enterprises and end users have the confidence they need that their data and private information are secure on 5G networks.


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