5G: A Catalyst for Security Threats
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The opportunities that can be created by 5G continue to excite businesses and consumers alike. As 5G rollouts gather pace, new consumer experiences and business models emerge. For consumers, enhanced mobile broadband offers superior experience, driving the consumption of much more data-rich content and the more widespread application of emerging technologies such as augmented reality (AR). For businesses, the low latency, higher bandwidth, and the ability to handle massive machine type communications promised by 5G create opportunities for a dizzying array of uses cases, usually linked to IoT technology.

As enterprise use cases like autonomous driving, remote surgery and software-defined factories are enabled by 5G, the impact of cybersecurity breaches becomes much greater. Breaches can potentially have a catastrophic impact – they could lead to serious damage to or the destruction of sensitive critical infrastructures, such as power stations and transportation systems.

Security vulnerabilities associated with 5G are underpinned by a change in network architecture. The latency benefits of 5G require a more distributed architecture to enable use cases which require real-time data processing. This leads to the virtualisation of higher-level network functions formerly performed by physical appliances. So 5G networks will necessarily create a greatly expanded attack surface. If an attacker gains control of the software managing the networks, they can also control the network and potentially cause chaos.

One of the major benefits of 5G is massively increased bandwidth. This is also a huge benefit for attackers. An increase in available bandwidth makes it much easier to generate attack traffic from compromised connected devices and vulnerable networks. As volumetric DDoS attacks grow in terms of frequency, magnitude, and sophistication, traditional defences such as out-of-band scrubbing centres and manual interventions become inadequate and expensive.

In a 5G World, Security Postures must be Agile and not Act as a Bottleneck to Performance

5G use cases require a radical shift in cybersecurity posture and a new set of security considerations. Networks managed by enterprises and service providers need to scale up to handle larger capacity requirements and scale out to accommodate the increased demands of edge computing and the growing volumes of IoT endpoints. Security infrastructure must change accordingly with upgrades to both physical and virtual components. Importantly, security postures must also be sufficiently agile to change with new requirements while ensuring that security does not act as a bottleneck to network performance.

A common response to the increasing complexity of distributed cloud and IoT environments – where existing tools cannot always detect new and emerging threats – is to deploy brand new security tools. This seems like a great solution but can lead to significant problems and compromise security. Over time, the deployment of multiple security tools creates an estate of siloed security products, sometimes reporting to their own dashboards. Although this management challenge is typically being addressed by service providers and large enterprises, most commonly with SIEM, they must continually ensure that there is provision for the centralisation of security alerts, so that cybersecurity staff do not face the challenge of monitoring multiple consoles and cross-referencing between disparate screens and information formats. Applying security policy changes is a laborious and time-consuming task in a multi-dashboard environment – representing a security threat in its own right.

In the case of large volumetric attacks, redirecting suspicious traffic to scrubbing centres adds latency and imposes a significant financial burden, since mitigation costs are directly tied to the volume of the data traffic. Large enterprises and service providers should consider adopting new DDoS protection approaches that incorporate AI, real-time analysis, and telemetry to automate a more intelligent and cost-effective detection and mitigation process.

Different Policies Required to Reflect Specific Needs of Each Use Case

5G allows mobile service providers to partition their network resources, to address a diverse set of use cases with differing performance and functional requirements. These varying service performance profiles have a direct impact on security protocol choices and policy implementation. For instance, the service in one use case, such as a Smart City application, may require extremely long device battery life, which constrains the security protocol in some other way (e.g., how often re-authentication is performed). In another example, the use case may be very privacy-sensitive, requiring unusually intensive security procedures (e.g., very frequent reallocation of temporary identities).

The complexity associated with securing highly distributed and virtualised networks powered by 5G, will grow enormously and be hampered by an ever-increasing skills shortage. The only way to address these challenges is to create an intelligent security infrastructure that is sufficiently agile to scale with the network and use AI to detect, contain and eliminate threats. Security managers will need a unified view of all assets – physical and virtual – so that multiple security policies can be enforced and managed.

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Andrew Milroy is a well-known and respected thought leader and speaker in the APAC region. With more than two decades of experience in the technology sector, Andrew has worked with clients in a variety of tech domains including cybersecurity, cloud computing, IoT, blockchain, service provider strategies, and customer experience. His most recent work has been focused on the current challenges in technology markets, cybersecurity and digital transformation. Since moving to Singapore in 2011, he has held regional leadership roles with Frost & Sullivan and Ovum (now Omdia). Prior to working in Singapore, Andrew gained invaluable technology knowledge and insights while working in Europe, the United States, and Australia. Andrew is frequently invited to speak, chair and moderate at major technology events. He is also widely quoted on the global broadcast media, including BBC, CNBC, Bloomberg and Channel News Asia. Andrew has a BSc from Newcastle University (UK), an MA from Middlesex University (UK) and an MBA from MGSM (Australia). Andrew is a long suffering Sheffield United supporter and enjoys hiking and running in his spare time.


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