Saturday, 11th July 2020

Tackle the 5G security question and reap the rewards

New research from Ericsson estimates there will be 22.3bn connected devices by 2024, and it will fall on 5G’s shoulders to accommodate this new level of mass connectivity. Thankfully, 5G will be smarter, faster, and more efficient than its predecessors. It has a much improved bandwidth, faster mobile data speeds and lower latency on 4G, meaning reduced lag and an overall more stable, improved user experience. By Benoit Jouffrey, VP 5G Expertise, Gemalto a Thales Company.

It is equipped to revolutionise our relationship with the internet, data and will undoubtedly accelerate society’s pull towards smart, technology-fuelled living.

Assessing new threats

To ensure these benefits of 5G are more than just a pipedream however, we must tackle its security question. As a network, it differs from its predecessors as it underpins the future connected world. And this is where the real security threat lies.

5G will completely extend our means of communication; transcending mobile networks, non-mobile networks and possibly leveraging satellite transmissions. Objects will be able to ‘speak’ in real-time with one-another and analyse vast amounts of data from around the world, so we can work and live in smarter cities, rely on autonomous or smart driving and embrace smart living. But as 5G is becoming more widely adopted and used across billions of connected devices, securing the 5G network infrastructure will become paramount for realising the benefits of this technology and creating a safer connected world.

5G security must always be evolving

Achieving this will require a host of invested parties, from OEMs to MNOs, to cloud and security vendors and governments, to work together and implement best practice.

To build a secure 5G ecosystem, all industry players need to adopt a holistic approach to cyber security, which is based on five key principles:

Security must be scalable: Low-end devices which sit at the network’s edge may not need the same security attention as the core network, but it’s important that the solutions can communicate with one another and be scaled to meet different needs.

Security is an end-to-end solution: 5G is only as secure as its weakest point, and it’s critical that the entire network is protected by a secure protocol otherwise it’s at risk of losing data.

We must have state-of-the-art cryptographic mechanism: The 5G system should be able to securely identify and authenticate subscribers, ensuring that only genuine users can access network services. This needs to be underpinned by robust encryption, based on state-of-the-art methods, like the usage of secure, tamper-resistant, certifiable hardware to underpin data privacy and maintain mutual authentication between device and network to ensure efficient service delivery.

We must rely on industry certifications: It’s important that governments, OEMs and MNOs, as well as vertical industries such as automotive and financial services, listen and work with the GSMA and other industry institutions like Global Platform or Eurosmart, to ensure that worldwide security certifications standards are defined, providing a benchmark for excellence which guarantees that the appropriate security standards are met.

Standards will underpin the network: It’s critical that we continue to further develop a standards-based approach to 5G. Just like security, standards cannot be static, they are constantly evolving and it’s this level of agility which we need to combat the security threats of today and tomorrow.

Delivering a secure network

5G has tremendous potential. It can provide a range of advanced connectivity services: from a high-speed mobility service for a travelling smartphone user and ultra-reliable communications for connected and driverless vehicles through to reliable real-time detection and automation in smart factories, allowing fleets of robots to be controlled remotely.

But to enable all these innovations to happen, all industry players need to work together to build a trusted connectivity ecosystem that has data security at its heart. From creating scalable 5G solutions, through to driving consistent standardisation in the industry, building trust in the 5G ecosystem will be key to unlocking its full potential.

By Steve Miller-Jones, VP edge strategy and solution architecture at Limelight Networks.
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