Over 7 trillion wireless devices are expected to be interconnected through the 5G network. As 5G adoption becomes more widespread, enterprises have started evaluating use cases for deploying 5G networks. 5G networks allow for industrial-scale IoT networks with ultra-low latency, mission-critical reliability, and a high degree of mobility. The network security of enterprises and that of their connected devices shouldn’t be considered only in hindsight. While 5G was designed from the ground up with safety at the forefront, it’s not entirely secure.
In ensuring the security of 5G networks, it is essential to consider the vulnerabilities and threats of the infrastructure. Also, the potential risks in protecting individuals’ personal data and their privacy should also be considered. Here are key areas for the enterprises to focus on to ensure a secure 5G deployment:
Cybersecurity and 5G Technology
5G networking technology is more reliant on software. Therefore, the chance of the network infrastructure getting exploited by cybercriminals is much higher. Currently, the 5G supply chains are limited. This means that the networking devices are purchased in haste without proper understanding.
This increases the potential for faulty components. Any of these potential faults can lead to the long-term detriment of businesses. Regarding data and network characteristics, the enterprise may use the controls such as enhanced subscriber identity protection and new mutual authentication capabilities.
Adopt Zero Trust best practices
Zero Trust best practices are based on the principle of “never trust, always verify.” It assumes that IT networks are constantly under internal and external threats. No user should have access to an organization’s network, services, or IT systems until they authenticate and always verify themselves. This includes every device, user, and network flow.
The Zero Trust Policies that an enterprise creates for itself must be dynamic and must be calculated from multiple data sources. They should also aim to make network security a simple process rather than a complex one. Enterprises adopting Zero Trust best practices is a chance for them to revamp their overall cybersecurity.
Network slicing feature
Network slicing is the division of networks at the software level. This new tool allows the 5G operators to offer more targeted services to the customers as per their needs. The needs of customers and devices connected to the Internet are becoming more and more specific.
The transition to 5G has led to the clear separation of various network components. A network slice is a part of the network that is logically separated from the rest. It is independent and has specific security measures to protect it. It can be adapted to meet specific requirements. Furthermore, it can be dedicated to a single customer, or multiple users can share it.
The operational management of the various slices according to the needs of the network, users, and traffic is largely automated, thanks to the orchestration functions. Network slicing is made possible by a profound architectural change that includes all the network components (core, RAN, transport, cloud). This factor allows allocating greater and/or specific resources to different customers or services.
In particular, the core is used to control cloud-native technologies, which allows exploiting the same resources, including hardware. However, it is recommended to carry out divisions at a logical level to dedicate the calculation and transmission capacity of the devices to specific applications.
Considering Low Latency as a Threat
Low latency allows faster data analysis, data downloads, and communication. This, in turn, accelerates the speed at which cyber attacks are carried out. The enterprise can prevent this threat by adopting practices like active queue management and re-architecting congestion control.
Low latency is harmful and can lead to large-scale cybercrimes. If the business wants to protect its data from all types of threat actors, proper cybersecurity practices must be in place to ensure that there is no area for criminals to exploit.
Core Services Security
Technology innovation security and virtualization infrastructure are the foundations of 5G core service security. Apart from these, enterprises must also consider cybersecurity issues in their day-to-day operations. Security considerations include integration with security operations centres (SOCs), zoning for communication controls, and realizing the proof of concept of the security functions.
Open RAN does not necessarily increase network security. This is mainly because of the design of the O-ran specification development process, which didn’t take the principles of multilateral security and privacy into account. There are also potential risks of unauthorized access to network component management interfaces that could easily cause a compromise.
Apart from the core functions, the RAN controller provides a platform on which further functions can be implemented with third-party applications. This is another security risk for enterprises. In the coming years, enterprises will need to work on a new type of 5G network architecture that will provide an alternative way of deploying the radio access part of 5G networks based on open interfaces. The other risks include an increased risk of network misconfiguration, a larger attack surface and more entry points for cybercriminals. With 5G implementation, there might be a potential impact on other network functions due to resource sharing.
Endpoint Security in Enterprises
To guarantee adequate enterprise protection against cyber attacks within their perimeter and range of action, endpoint security is crucial. From a technical point of view, endpoints consist of all devices capable of connecting to the corporate network. This definition immediately clarifies the importance of securing the entire network structure because endpoints represent potential entry points for IT threats.
It is, therefore, essential to provide adequate protection for each link in the network chain, where endpoints are often the weakest. Endpoints include various sensors in factories, mostly present in drones and cranes. The main goal is endpoint security in 5G implementation is preventing and fighting forms of abuse of endpoints. Countermeasures should be devised against exploiting radio-connected endpoint devices that use new identifiers. In light of the GDPR, all the processing and flows of personal data of end users of 5G technologies must be operated in such a way as to guarantee maximum security.
5G implementation has numerous benefits for enterprises, including scalability and speed. The same qualities can amplify the damage caused by threats if precautions are not taken. Regarding 5G implementation, enterprises need to focus on preventing unauthorized access to personal data and connected devices.
For optimum 5G Security, the enterprise must address five key end-to-end operations, including radio transport, telco cloud, IoT and devices, security operations, and slicing security. How the user is recognized by the enterprise network should be extremely solid and should guarantee that the user’s identity and data are not compromised.