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Wireless 5G and Beyond Network Security

5G Threat Landscape_122223A
[5G Threat Landscape - 5G Americas]

- Overview

5G networks are standardized for security by 3GPP. 5G has many security features, including:

  • Strong authentication and authorization protocols: 5G has strong protocols to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Encryption: 5G uses encryption and other techniques to protect privacy. User data is usually encrypted in transit, but processed in cleartext in many functions.
  • Roaming encryption: 5G provides better roaming encryption than 4G.
  • Licensed spectrum: 5G's use of licensed spectrum protects data, voice, and video traffic from eavesdropping.
  • Private networks: 5G private networks have built-in security, meaning only authorized people can approve what devices can connect to the network.
  • GSMA NESAS: GSMA NESAS is a standardized and effective cyber security assessment that allows the communications industry to ensure fairness.

5G also has other security challenges, such as a greater risk of denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Hackers can also use rogue access points to intercept data.


Cybersecurity Evolution Meets 5G Revolution

5G networks are considered the most secure wireless network technology. They are based on 4G LTE security and encrypt customer identifying information when the phone is connected to the network. 

5G networks use advanced technologies such as:

  • Network slicing
  • Virtualization
  • Cloud-based resources

As we move forward, technologies like IoT, AI and machine learning will advance opportunities in the 5G era and bring a sweeping communication revolution. 

5G, however, is a switch to mostly all-software networks, so it’s not without its challenges - one of which is cybersecurity, a hot button issue that will grow equally in scope and breadth as 5G adoption increases. The 5G revolution will usher in cybersecurity evolutions as we move forward.


- New Network Security Features for 5G

5G networks include new network security features that improve on 4G LTE. These features include:

  • Encryption: International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) encryption
  • Mutual authentication: All traffic data sent through the 5G network is encrypted, integrated, protected, and follows a mutual authentication policy
  • Subscriber Identity Protection: Enhanced Subscriber Identity Protection
  • Edge Protection Agent: Securely interconnects disparate networks to help maintain data consistency, accuracy and integrity

5G networks are built from hardware and software and use the cloud, so they have a larger attack surface. However, the evolution of 5G will transform control development from a reactive approach to a more proactive and versatile one.

5G networks can help organizations and cybersecurity professionals identify threats faster and increase the speed at which data critical to cybersecurity is analyzed, downloaded, and transferred.


- The Secure Edge Protection Proxy (SEPP)

5G networks also have a new network architecture element called the Secure Edge Protection Proxy (SEPP). SEPP protects the edge of the home network and acts as a secure gateway between the home network and the visited network. 

5G networks also have other security features, including: customer identification information encryption, SEPP, resiliency, communications security, identity management, privacy.

However, since devices are still connected to the old network, security vulnerabilities remain. Threats to 5G networks include:

  • Semantic information attacks, using incorrect information to cause harm
  • Location data leaked by access point selection algorithm
  • Accurate positioning and tracking of internal and external users

There are other security issues with 5G networks, including:

  • Data collection: 5G networks generate large amounts of data, including sensitive and private data.
  • IoT device vulnerabilities: Many IoT devices are not secure and can be targeted by hackers.
  • Network vulnerabilities: 5G networks have more traffic routing points than 4G networks.
  • Hardware vulnerabilities: Counterfeit or inherited components in network hardware can compromise data.
  • Supply chain risks: Government involvement in telecom equipment manufacturing could impact 5G security.
  • Edge attacks: Edge cloud nodes are vulnerable to spoofing, eavesdropping, and other attacks from the public Internet.
  • Cyber espionage: The high speeds and low latency of 5G networks may make them more susceptible to cyber espionage. 


- 5G and Beyond for the Military

5G and beyond of mobile technologies will increase the speed of data transfer and improve bandwidth over existing fourth generation (4G) technologies, in turn enabling new military and commercial applications. 

5G technologies are expected to support interconnected or autonomous devices, such as smart homes, self-driving vehicles, precision agriculture systems, industrial machinery, and advanced robotics. 

5G will go far beyond fast phone calls and fast movie downloads, especially for the military. In fact, 5G could enable what military leaders as early as the 1980s called the “infosphere,” in which everything from video, voice, sensors, targeting, reconnaissance, and even infantry weapons could be easily accessed. Targeted data is instantly available to anyone who needs it.

5G for the military could additionally improve intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems and processing; enable new methods of command and control (C2); and streamline logistics systems for increased efficiency, among other uses. 


[More to come ...]



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