What Does It Mean To Be “5G Capable”?
At trade fairs, in the media, and numerous discussions about IoT and IIoT, products and technology are increasingly referred to as “5G-ready” or “5G-capable”. Mobile network operators will undoubtedly adopt a 5G infrastructure that is highly scalable in the next few years in terms of capacity and throughput. At the Mobile World Congress 2019, which will occur at the end of February, Palo Alto Networks is expecting demos of 5G core networks, network slicing, new radios (5G-NR), and other 5G-capable network components. But what about security? Cellular networks will only be fully 5G-capable if the necessary security aspects are integrated into these networks as planned. Palo Alto Networks is investigating this issue.
Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, recently pointed out that leadership in 5G technology isn’t just about building a network, it’s also about whether that network is secure enough for the promised innovations. According to Wheeler, the fact is that wireless networks aren’t as fast as they could be because they weren’t designed to withstand the types of cyberattacks that are common today. This is not the company’s fault, but it shows that cyberattacks were not an issue when the current 4G technology standards were set years ago.
A New Approach To Security Is Needed
Everything changes with 5G – according to Palo Alto Networks. Critical applications such as remote maintenance, monitoring and control of power grids, and self-driving cars will all be based on 5G technologies. The networks will be more distributed, and many critical applications will be hosted on the edge of 5G networks and via edge clouds. Opportunities for threat actors arise when they can act unhindered. They will take advantage of automation to launch multilevel attacks and find the worst-protected areas of the 5G networks. A new security approach is therefore required for cellular networks to be genuinely 5G-capable.
Even if standards and network architectures for 5G are still in development, it is not just an option for mobile network operators but essential to integrate the proper security functions. To make the networks 5G-capable, mobile network operators must implement a robust and comprehensive end-to-end security strategy. This means:
- Complete transparency, inspection, and control are applied at all levels of the network, i.e. at the application, signalling, and data level.
- Threat analyzes in the cloud are based on machine learning (ML), which are used across the various locations and environments of the cellular network.
- A cloud-ready platform that ensures consistent security monitoring across all network locations.
With these necessary security functions, cellular networks become 5G-capable – using data-driven threat defense that delivers contextual security results. Cellular operators will be able to automate processes to identify infected devices and prevent attacks from IoT devices proactively; Detect advanced multilevel attacks aimed at leveraging different levels of signaling and control in the 5G networks; Automatically identify advanced threats, correlate them with specific devices/users and isolate/remove infected devices from their networks. As a result, the operators will also differentiate themselves as “Secure Business Enablers”.
5G networks are intended to become the backbone of transformation services that will positively change lives for future generations. This is true regardless of whether it is about autonomous vehicles, remote surgery, smart utilities, or many other technological advances that will benefit from 5G. Innovators, investors, and users need trust in the network’s cyber security to achieve the promising goals of 5G.