Cybersecurity Experts Say Organizations Must Prepare for 5G and IoT Threats

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With the pending dominance Internet of Things (IoT) adoption in business applications, combined with a growing necessity for mobile devices and laptops, the limitations of 4G LTE technology serves as a motivation for mobile network operators to launch enhanced 5G communications. These providers seek to maintain the pace with the network challenges of today and the near future.

A Brief History of Wireless Networks

The first standardized mobile phone network emerged in 1982. Every nine years, new standards were adopted. GSM was the second generation of wireless networks and deployed in 1992. In 2001, a variety of 3G standards began emerging, with competing deployments. The last deployment we saw before 5G was in 2010 with 4G LTE wireless technology becoming the dominant technology by wireless services providers.

A Brave New World of 5G Wireless

News about 5G technology is fire in the digital world. The many benefits 5G will deliver is beginning to have an impact as enterprises adapt 5G security. According to the 2019 Ericsson Mobility Report, 5G a total of 13 million 5G subscriptions were expected by the end of 2019. Approximately 50 service providers have announced commercial 5G launches. Ericsson also predicted 2.6 billion subscriptions by 2025. Gartner predicts that 66% of organizations have plans to deploy 5G in 2020. That’s two thirds of all organizations surveyed.

Organizations are beginning to offer 5G as a means to provide VR services, augmented reality (AR) services, innovative media and enhanced gaming. As more organizations connect to 5G undoubtedly, they will find other purposes. 5G will be a tangible revamp of the main networks we use and will have a lot of power for many decades. Due to its largely all-software network transition, forthcoming upgrades will be application updates like the ones that keep your mobile devices current.

5G presents many cyber threats, and this will be a concern as we secure IT applications, infrastructure and networks. Connections on a 5G network, therefore, will trigger the need for substantial change in how organizations manage cybersecurity. Experts in the security field are not thrilled about the potential threats the new network will bring.

Why 5G Networks Face Bigger Security Concerns

According to the 2019 Brookings Report “Why 5G requires new approaches to cybersecurity,” there are five ways in which 5G networks are more prone to cyberattacks than their forerunners:

  • Distributed Digital Networks – Networks previously utilized centralized, hardware-based switching. Not so with 5G, which leverages distributed, software-defined digital routing. Previous networks had “hardware choke points” where cybersecurity controls could be implemented. This is not the case with 5G, which relies on a web of digital routers spread out across the network – negating a chokepoint for analysis and control.
  • Virtualized Software – Previously, higher-level network functions were carried out by physical appliances with IP and well-known OS. Software processing for high-level network functions are now being virtualized, increasing the probability of software vulnerabilities.
  • Networks Managed by Software – A new layer of vulnerability is introduced in 5G, which is now managed by software. Artificial intelligence also creates new attack vectors. If a hacker can take control of the network management software, they can compromise and cause further damage to the network.
  • Expanding 5G Bandwidth – For 5G to work, it needs a wider bandwidth than ever, expanding the attack surface and introducing new avenues of attack. 5G introduces edge vulnerabilities with physical, low-cost, short range antennas deployed in multiple areas becoming targets for cybercrime and negligence. The small-cell antennas rely on 5G’s Dynamic Spectrum Sharing feature, which enables multiple data streams to share bandwidth, partitioned in “slices” that each introduce cyber risk.
  • IoT-enabled Devices – with the deployment of 5G technology comes the emergence of tens of billions of smart devices susceptible to cyber threats related to IoT networks.

 5G Requires a New Approach to Cybersecurity

Security experts are not thrilled about the potential threats the new network will bring. With the new competences available in 5G applications, we must place a correlating emphasis on securing those connections, devices and applications. A strong cybersecurity foundation with a cybersecurity and compliance posture is necessary to add 5G communication networks.

The cost of not implementing a proactive 5G cybersecurity tool will be much greater than the cost of the tool itself. Instead of relying on low-cost solutions, such as Dynamic Spectrum Sharing with low-cost antenna hardware, organizations must shift dynamically to the best cybersecurity measures that will save money in the long run.

According to Verizon, cyberattacks on mobile devices are on the rise. More organizations should follow Verizon’s example to address security before we become more reliant on vulnerable 5G services. An understanding of 5G network security is mandatory and not optional. Verizon, for instance, is already focused on delivering robust security for 5G services. Initiatives include:

Communication Security

Features include encryption of 5G signal traffic, established security algorithms and secure algorithm negotiation. New features will include automated recovery from malicious algorithm mismatches, speedy sync of security between access and core networks.

Identity Management

Improving upon secure identity management will allow for strengthened authentication measures. The new improvements will enable established for certificate infrastructure and public keys reuse in network access authentication.

Privacy

Encryption using the most cutting-edge tech will ensure privacy for 5G users. Mutual authentication between networks and devices will use integrity-protected signaling.

Address 5G security With Threat Modeling

The 5th generation wireless system (5G) seeks to generate substantial performance gains to the market. As we make the transition, 5G will be more regulated and security compliance will become a huge concern. Threat modeling can help 5G service providers, device manufactures and consumers to better understand the threats, risks and mitigations that are required. Threat modeler has the ability to analyze and predict attack vectors of 5G technologies, to make informed security requirement decisions.

Protect 5G and IoT Security With ThreatModeler

We previously discussed the importance of threat modeling for 5G networks. As mentioned, investing in a cybersecurity tool to protect 5G technology and its applications could save you millions of dollars as opposed to trying to react to the damage and fallout from a 5G breach. Just remember that a 5G network built on an insecure infrastructure is like building on sand. There is no guarantee that your IT environment will be protected.

ThreatModeler is a leader in the threat modeling industry and has automated key tasks to save organizations up to 80% on time-cost. ThreatModeler comes out-of-the-box integrated with trusted threat libraries and security guidelines as outlined by AWS, OWASP, the NVD and others. ThreatModeler lends itself to IT project management with its Jira integration, enabling DevSecOps teams to assign tasks. With its bidirectional communication flow, users can keep track and communicate on progress as needed. To learn more about how ThreatModeler can help you, schedule a live demo with our team. You can also contact us directly to speak with a threat modeling expert.

 

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