5G Network Security: What You Need to Know

5g network security portnox

The emergence of 5G wireless technology is no longer news to the world. Organizations and cyber security experts alike look forward to its higher speed, increased capacity, and lower latency. The 5G wireless network also boasts interactive applications, improved communication, increased labor productivity, and lower costs. 

Moreover, 5G intends to provide more extensive broadband access which is good news for gamers, online video content developers, and other multimedia resource users. However, as intriguing as the pros sound, experts warn of its potential downsides.  

An area to critically examine and prepare for is cybersecurity. Online networks and systems have been prone to security vulnerabilities. From 2G to 4G, there have been issues confronting the wireless technology space, and 5G is no different. Also, threat actors are on the prowl as the technology undergoes perfection, ready to strike.  

There’s no telling the extent of damage in creation though it’s inevitable  that new methods of attack will spring up. There’s also the possibility of  cyber criminals amplifying their mode of attacks using the new technology. What every enterprise needs is a solid course of action for securing their 5G systems. 

In this article, we intend to provide the necessary overview of the security threats facing the 5G network, and the solutions to these threats. Here’s what these threats look like: 

Critical Security Challenges With 5G

Companies must realize that the security challenges associated with 3G and 4G also apply to 5G. Despite its high level of security, there is a possibility of various potential vulnerabilities to a multitude of attacks.  A 5G connection of critical infrastructure will require top-notch security. Therefore, it becomes expedient to focus on crucial factors such as these to avoid cyber attacks and severe network disruption:

Issues from a Co-existence Between 4G and 5G include:

  • First, enterprises must realize that 5G will require time to evolve alongside 4G, so 4G and 5G will co-exist for a good period of time. However, the transition promises to increase the bandwidth necessary for high performance lacking in the current networks. 
  • Organizations must also note that different operators and countries will move to 5G at their own desired pace. Additionally, Telecom operators must also take care of the security issues that come with the transition and interworking of previous networks. 
  • The co-existence of both networks requires that the security policy for threat detection and mitigation needs consistency and a holistic approach.

Exposure to the Internet of Things (IoT)

The internet of things, which focuses on connectivity and data exchange over the internet, will experience some ruffles. However, the 5G technology will improve some of its use cases. The question here is how prepared organizations are to defend against exposure vulnerabilities. 

IoT products are highly vulnerable devices because of their ease of use and connectivity  which cybercriminals will inevitably exploit to spring attacks. 5G also has enhanced connectivity, making spreading threats via IoT networks easy. More bandwidth will allow hackers to generate powerful and overwhelming DDoS attacks on any organization’s network and services. 

New Attack Openings At The Network Multi-Edge Computing

The edge network focuses on application hosting and data processing movement from a centralized point to the network edge. Therefore, when a proper security mechanism is absent, a termination from IP connectivity is likely.  

 Most edges are susceptible to various attacks from the public internet. There ares easy ways which threat actors infiltrate or attack such as by by running third-party applications with virtual network functions (VNFs) on a single physical platform.  

In addition, rogue base station (RBS) threats have always been a significant source of concern for 4G, which remains a likelihood for 5G. RBS operates by diverting cell phone traffic to the desired location after spoofing the cell phone tower. They meddle with data, steal sensitive information, track users, and more. As a middleman technique, it puts the attacker in the heart of the network and its clients, opening the doors for immeasurable damage.  

Network Slicing & Virtualization

Network slicing is a form of virtualization that allows running multiple logical networks on shared physical network infrastructure. It allows mobile service providers to partition network resources allowing them,  to look into various sets of use cases. 

Network slicing also allows the authentication of users for only one network area. It makes data and security isolation quite possible. However, the issue is that slices add complexity to the network and can be challenging to manage. Ordinarily, a compromise on any slice need not impact the others. But configuring one network isn’t the way of operation. Instead, configuration involves many slicers with more significant service requirements. 

The 5G networks currently lack precise specifications on developing and implementing security for network slicing. However, there are defining standards and specifications for building the network. The issue is that improper management of the network slice creates avenues for malicious actors to gain access. 

Software-Defined Networking & Network Function Virtualization

Networks built on software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) operate differently from traditional networks. NFV infrastructure functions like firewalls, routing, and SD-WAN. It gets installed as software through abstraction. On the other hand, SDN separates a control plane from a forwarding plane.   

Switching to SDN/NFV requires a change in network infrastructure and the appearance of new elements. Both infrastructures pose threats like forwarding device attacks and traffic spoofing.   

Signal Interference 

The 5G technology promises a lot of advantages. However, it also poses a threat to specific sectors. For instance, the transport segment of the economy has raised some concerns. A likely threat to the transport enterprise is the proposed signal interference by the 5G network. There’s a projection of it causing harmful interference to radar altimeters on all civil aircraft types.   

However, interference is not a new phenomenon in the wireless network. Therefore, a need for proper mitigation becomes expedient. Also, other wireless technologies need to pay close attention to site surveys. The goal is to discover the extent of challenges from signal penetration. Both networks operate in the same frequency bands. For this reason, organizations should remember that the same sources of interference affecting 4G are likely with 5G.  

How to Prepare for 5G Network Security Threats 

Without a doubt, 5G is going to be a game-changer. However, security is a critical aspect of its successful delivery of services. Furthermore, the survey conducted by AT&T on 451 respondents shows a high-security threat expectancy. Therefore, stakeholders must carefully plan their security strategies in the 5G evolution roadmap. An excellent place to commence evaluation is the security challenges outlined in this article. 

To create a 5G security position, enterprises need to understand the potential threats. That way, putting up the necessary tools guarantees well-grounded defense. Also, taking advantage of available resources will help to anticipate and further plan for new security threats. One way to begin is to supplement their security with the features already available on the 5G technology. 

Enterprises must understand that identification and authentication will be crucial to 5G security. For this reason, multi-access edge computing nodes and IoT networks should devise vulnerability management programs. Organizations should also consider SDN and virtualization powerful elements in their preparation processes.  

Furthermore, in threat detection and intelligence, machine learning, and other artificial intelligence will come in handy. In addition, a zero-trust environment becomes highly recommended. Finally, due to the large number of devices involved, there’s the need to implement other sophisticated approaches to authorization and identity. 

Remember that organizations should and must take responsibility for covering all security aspects. The time is fast approaching when firewalls will no longer protect everything. Enterprise security teams should look into building 5G private networks to separate the most sensitive elements and other use cases.  

Organizations get to customize build-outs to meet their application requirements. They also function as alternatives to using network slicing for better security. However, given the high cost of building a private 5G network, there is the option of buying or leasing. Whatever the option, the paramount goal needs to be security management. 

5G Network Security: Final Thoughts  

The future of enterprise 5G is more about applications and innovations. Success becomes guaranteed when companies take advantage of speed, low latency, cost-effectiveness, AI collaborations, and more. 

5G security is not only about the right security equipment- It involves collaborations, building workflows, procedures, and more. It’s also about establishing an effective security management process. Other focus areas include spectrum sharing, Legacy Communications Infrastructure, policy, and standard threats. 

Security has always mattered in the online technology space though as breaches and threats become more complex, the higher the stakes become. As a result, enterprises need to modernize their approaches to  network security  to keep their users safe from increasingly innovative threat actors. 



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