As the world prepares for the first commercial debut of 5G networks, many people are curious about the security threats and risks that the new standard will face. 5G networks will support a massive number of connected devices, enable a huge increase of bandwidth, and create a next-generation threat landscape that will inevitably introduce 5G security challenges.
In 2016, Forbes collected annual security survey reports from the biggest players in cyber, and the results are sobering. On top of the rising risks they found, what new security threats and risks will 5G networks bring to the world? The future of communications will drive new 5G security requirements, due to the concerns for new use cases and new network architectures.
5G Security and New Use Cases
The coming 5G networks promise to explode vertical industries, enabling the creation of a wide array of new services—all of which will demand new, varying levels of security. For example, the threat of automotive cyberattacks will rise as autonomous vehicles become more widespread. Advances that 5G will bring to the health industry are mitigated by the necessity to have ever-stronger security in place—creating risks that include medical identity theft, invasion of health privacy, and medical data management. Smart homes will require stronger methods of authentication, such as biometric identification. In general, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors will demand more complex authentication to prevent unauthorized access.
5G Security and New Network Architectures
New cloud/virtualization technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) are thriving in anticipation of 5G networks, but they too come with new security concerns. Because of their open, flexible, programmable nature, SDN and NFV can be insecure technologies in isolation. Therefore, it will be crucial that they remain at the core of robust 5G networks.
The security of 5G network infrastructure must evolve alongside the standard. For example, because 5G networks can be sliced into uniquely purposed slices, each virtual network slice could demand unique security capabilities. Also, compromised Radio Access Network (RAN)-side 5G devices might present a larger Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) threat.
Tackling 5G Security
Many of the old network security rules will hold true for 5G security. According to Cisco, there are five primary 5G security protections to focus on:
- Prevent threats: Minimize the basic issues that account for most security incidents. Use firewalls to protect your network, and access controls to minimize user-based risk. Consider intrusion detection and prevention tools for blocking basic 5G security threats.
- Stop and fix advanced malware: Go beyond signature-based tools to spot the attacks designed to evade basic filters. Behavior-based checks on endpoints — possibly using sandboxing — are important. Once you detect a threat, you will need to be able to remove all instances of it on the network.
- Detect anomalies: Use packet capture, big data, and machine learning to identify threats not spotted by basic filters. When embedded into network switches and routers, it’s far more effective, as it turns those devices into 5G security sensors.
- Incorporate DNS intelligence: Monitor DNS activity and protect against anything malicious.
- Make threat intelligence paramount: To understand the malicious efforts of hackers, providers must look for vendors that profile hackers. Try and get intelligence from the widest range of sources possible.
The Importance of 5G Security
The 5G standard will offer towering benefits, such as enhanced speed and performance, lower latency, and better efficiency. But it will also come with risks. Vastly increased numbers of devices and an elevated use of virtualization and the cloud will equate to many more 5G security threats and a broader, multifaceted attack surface. To realize a strong and healthy communications future, the industry needs to maintain a laser focus on 5G security.