Mobile networks are evolving with 5G


Telecom operators need to rethink how best to defend their mobile networks and protect their subscribers, says Dmitry Kurbatov, co-founder and CTO of global mobile telecom security startup SecurityGen.

Mobile operators today face a growing range of ever-changing threats. If hackers are successful in penetrating a carrier’s network, they can significantly disrupt the delivery of vital services, seriously damage customer relationships, and cost the carrier millions of dollars in lost revenue due to fraud or network outages.

Data leakage is a constant concern. Operators are tasked with sending and receiving large amounts of sensitive customer data on a daily basis. If this data falls into the wrong hands, operators must pay a heavy price: GDPR regulations mean that if an EU mobile operator leaks the personal data of its users, it risks a fine of up to 20 million euros or 4% of its income. annual revenue.

Fraud also continues to be a costly and ongoing problem for the telecommunications industry. Operator losses due to fraudulent activities currently represent between 1 and 2% of the industry’s annual revenue.

Network outages also have a huge cost for mobile operators. The total cost of downtime will vary depending on the specific circumstances, but will include lost revenue and productivity, as well as damage to reputation and the cost of any necessary repairs.

These threats require operators to always be vigilant. But the advent of new technologies including 5G, virtualization, cloud, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things – as well as the need for seamless interoperability between existing 2G, 3G and 4G networks – means that mobile networks are much more complex than ever. This in turn increases the attack surface of each network.

Why Legacy Security Solutions No Longer Meet the Needs of Today’s Mobile Networks

As mobile networks become more complex and dynamic, new and serious security challenges have emerged for operators. As a result, current security measures are simply not enough to adequately protect networks and subscribers from cyberattacks.

5G in particular was developed with improved security protocols compared to previous network generations. However, alongside the complex 5G ecosystem, which presents multiple paths for hackers to access, as 5G relies on popular protocols such as HTTP/2 and IP, hackers may not need knowledge and specialized telecommunications skills to attack.

There is pressure on carriers to continuously inspect and assess the security of their networks to identify and fix vulnerabilities. The cost of an effective identification and prevention strategy is far less than the cost of patching an exploited vulnerability after an attacker has wreaked havoc on the network by stealing data, denying service to subscribers, or causing a complete network failure. And has an additional negative impact in terms of reputational damage and loss of trust between customers.

Unfortunately, there is no single fix, solution, or technique that operators can deploy to secure their networks. What is needed instead are automated and frequent inspections and testing, backed by the latest threat intelligence and continuously updated threat databases.

A proactive approach to security by design in telecommunications security

Safer and more secure mobile networks depend on operators abandoning their current stance on cybersecurity and adopting a more proactive approach that views the network as a whole rather than separate components.

Operators should aim to provide comprehensive security at all layers of the 5G deployment process – connections, applications and devices. More regular inspection of their networks increases the likelihood of early threat detection and enables operators to address and resolve issues before services are affected.

Once detected, threats are prioritized and dealt with. All detected vulnerabilities should be tested and probed to fully account for the potential threat level they represent.

This is where a holistic approach Inspection, Detection, Protection (IDP)The security-based approach takes on its full meaning. This approach continuously validates the effectiveness of security controls and ensures a continuous loop of proactive security assessments to help detect attacks on the network core and the extended 5G ecosystem.

By adopting a built-in defense mechanism that helps prioritize and eliminate identified threats, operators benefit from round-the-clock protection against new, existing and advanced security threats to their networks. With this new holistic approach to network security, carriers can stay one step ahead of attackers, effectively defend their networks, and continuously protect their subscribers.


Some basic steps in this direction could be:

1) Ratings

Testing the different elements of the network is the first step. Base stations should all be tested to verify the security of radio and access networks. Similarly, core network testing, since it is fully exposed to physical and virtual infrastructure. Infrastructure equipment – both hardware and software – are made up of closed “black box” solutions, which makes it difficult to discover any vulnerabilities they contain. Testing the MEC elements of the network is also important, as these may lack architectural security.

2) Monitoring

Network-wide security monitoring is an integral part of supporting a secure environment because it allows the operator to see what is happening inside the network. It provides the visibility needed to quickly detect threats as soon as they appear and to put in place defensive countermeasures just as quickly.

3) Protection

There is no point in creating proactive protection by creating boundaries around the mobile network – the network and the services crossing it are already exposed. Having visibility into the infrastructure is the only way to enforce control and protection. Mobile operators can do this with patches and verifications for access networks: hardening and compliance for virtualization: design review and security requirements for multi-access edge computing; and traffic filtering and continuous adjustment for the core network.

Effective mobile network security is continuous, comprehensive, and involves a range of processes – automated security testing: end-to-end visibility for policy enforcement: and continuous, iterative security that creates and maintains a reliable and secure network environment.

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