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Unlocking 5G: Cyber Security Approaches to the Revolution

Neha Kirtonia
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October 15, 2020

Global forums are bustling with declarations and debates around the high-octane capabilities of 5G that presumably promises next generation of intelligent, and seamless operations. Despite the craze surrounding the roll-out of a high-speed, and low latency 5G the truth is that much of these services have already been provided by its predecessor 4G. However, the fundamental development is the re-envision of what network communications will look like henceforth. The previous technologies were based on physical network architecture, while 5G is completely software-based- finally bringing into reality the confluence of networks and wireless communication.

The 5G transformation is taking place against the backdrop of the pandemic where majority of the population is working from home and via various communication links that are growingly based on 5G networks. This technological shift has also brought 5G under the radar of apprehensions about its security. Since 5G connects an increased number of devices than the earlier technologies, which expands the surface for cyber-attacks, thereby it comes across as riskier. But the truth is, much of 5G’s vulnerabilities occur from other parts of the ecosystem- like the security of end devices. If we look at the bright side, the challenges pertaining to 5G’s cyber security can be dealt with the right approach to a solid foundation.

Making Way for 5G

With the advent of any new technology, it is wise to look at the current security posture of an organization. By thoroughly understanding and countering the risks related to 5G, organizations can fabricate better resilience and use the technology as a catalyst to produce revenues and business profit alongwith a better world.  

Approaches to keep 5G networks secure will be elemental in realizing its complete benefits for consumers and organizations and for ensuring security of end users. A major step to shield any network, including 5G, is to identify the vulnerability surface. In majority, these vulnerabilities arise at the points of interconnection, where threats switch from one part of the network to the other.  Ideally, different organizations are connected on each side of these transitions, which is why a collaborative approach is necessary to ensure that security is successful on each end.

All components in the ecosystem including mobile operators, network dealers, system coordinators-should identify, screen and survey the health of each component before it is connected to the network. A strategy that can help achieving this requires the following:

  • Zero Trust Approach- A robust security solution for all devices and applications, will minimize risk disclosure in the 5G ecosystem. After assessment of their level of security before connecting to the network, devices should be authorized to access resources based on their need and security percentage- from the core to IoT device, and the firmware to the cloud, should be screened for malware.
  • Encrypting everything- A data compromise or breach can be minimized if the 5G participants leverage strict encryption strategies to secure traffic between endpoints and operations. This means enforcing techniques that allow the encryption to build up gradually with time as risks expand.
  • Bring about AI- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will yet again prove to be pivotal in detecting and alleviating threats, with a speedy comprehensive insight and intelligence required in effectively maintaining cyber security. This includes threat detection and network traffic analysis.

The digital transformation into 5G is witnessing a shift in the cyber security landscape. Security to be effectively functioning in the 5G era requires each participant of the ecosystem to play their role. With resilience, technical expertise and innovation being non-negotiable, it is time for organizations to proactively scrutinize their security framework. The goal of securing this framework requires organizations to start early and formulate the security aspects from the initial stages. Elemental factors such as comprehensive framework, high scalability, and a proactive cyber security approach can ensure 5G endorsement with finesse. Even though 5G comes with a plethora of prospects, we must build the future on an accustomed foundation of secured and best security methods. By improving existing networks at first and rolling out 5G services individually with time, we can put our best foot forward for the forthcoming revolution.

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