Here are six considerations for NOT rushing to push out or adopt 5G before ensuring native security is in place…

By now, 5G has been hyped up enough that everyone knows its benefits.

However, much less is said about the technology’s equally massive potential for opening a Pandora’s Box of new vulnerabilities and attack surfaces.

Here are some tips and thoughts gleaned from Cybersecurity firm Check Point on how we should approach 5G with security from the ground up, rather than assume we can add it later.

New 5G services, new risks

With the advent of 5G, carriers will provide new services to consumers and businesses that will monetize their investments in advanced network infrastructure. The new services, which will require a specific security component, can be divided into three main areas:

  1. Private networks
    5G-based private networks will be deployed in large but well-defined areas like campuses, stadiums or airports. However, a private 5G-based network requires superior security, not only because of all the threats described in the next section, but also because the interface between the general carrier network and the private network adds additional attack surfaces to the mix.
  2. Wireless broadband
    Replacing wireless broadband with 5G networks will allow high-quality connectivity, but deploying it does not require cables like fiber does, and it provides higher speeds and lower latency than Wi-Fi. It is also a great broadband solution for people who are on the go and cannot always be connected to fiber or Wi-Fi.

    5G’s use of SDN (Software Defined Network) and NFV (Network Function Virtualization) will allow providing to consumers and businesses a full spectrum of new smart and adaptive features, which will let them get a completely different communications experience over existing broadband. Specifically, workloads that can now run only in a fixed broadband environment will be able to move to the network’s edge—out of the factory and the office to the field. Gaming trucks will not need to be equipped with heavy computing power but will be able to deliver their offering straight from the Cloud.

    Then again, the new 5G vulnerabilities described below need to be tackled by carriers before they are able to provide these services to their customers in a reliable manner.
  3. IoT communications
    This is a new promise by 5G which will allow every device to be connected, operated and monitored through the Internet, tapping on the low latency benefit. The 5G service provider will be expected to deliver to its customers not only the connectivity but also the telemetry analysis as a layer above that. In addition, in order to ensure the low latency required, 5G service providers are expected to lean heavily on edge computing—deployment of computation resources closer to where the IoT devices are located.

    Here too, is where 5G brings with it a whole set of new security threats. IoT devices will require zero-trust policy tailored per device, using real time threat intelligence and on-device runtime protection against zero-day attacks, regardless of how or where the device is deployed. IoT manufacturers and developers will also have to protect their devices against firmware flaws and vulnerabilities, enforce policies at the device level, and differentiate their offerings.

Mandating native security for 5G

The myriad cybersecurity risks opened up by 5G can also be roughly divided into three categories:

  1. Network cyber risks
    The core carrier network will be exposed to attacks related to communication protocols such as SS7, GTP, Diameter, GRX and SIP. A new set of vulnerabilities will be associated with the network’s MIMO capabilities, which allow simultaneous communications with several sources and destinations. Some of these issues will be tackled by core equipment vendors, but many others will have to be solved with virtual security gateways deployed throughout the network.
  2. 5G Cloud risks
    As the usage of contemporary models such as containers, VM and serverless computing increases, cloud-related threats will also escalate. Dealing with these threats will require top-notch security posture management. Security administration and monitoring should include real time awareness of misconfigurations, security groups, and compliance for containers in Kubernetes environments. Cloud intelligence and threat hunting with auto-remediation capabilities will also be required, in order to keep the cloud deployment safe and secure.
  3. Increase in application threats
    Web and application security will require web application and API protection (WAAP) solutions, including prevention of malicious bot activity. In addition, workload protection will require components such as secure server-less functions, source code scanning, and prevention of runtime corruption.

With all that 5G can offer across the board, service providers will need to differentiate their 5G products in order remain competitive.

Yet, the full spectrum of terrifying threats accompanying 5G means that they must resort to more sophisticated security in order to ensure that these services will be provided in a reliable and sustainable manner, rather than putting the onus on enthusiastic customers to plug up the cybersecurity gaps.