2019: The Year 5G Gets Real

Unlike previous generations of mobile network technologies, 5G is an overlay to 4G, and not a rip-out-and-replace scenario

Carriers come to grips with 5G security

The benefits of 5G are clear: the new communications standard will offer carriers and their enterprise customers faster network speeds and performance, ultra-low latency and greater efficiencies. General discussion around carrier trials and deployments tends to focus on increased speeds and the new innovations that 5G will enable, but security rarely comes up. That’s all about to change, with 5G security set to become a big issue for the industry and a major talking point in 2019.

To date, it appears that 5G security has almost been treated as an afterthought rather than as a critical aspect of network development. Behind the scenes, however, 5G security is an issue that the carriers take very seriously. The situation for carriers has altered dramatically because, in a 5G domain, the attack surface becomes much greater. Consequently, the number of opportunities for malicious players to exploit vulnerabilities increases.

This is partly due to the adoption of virtualized network infrastructures that will allow carriers to scale and meet the demands of 5G, but also because 5G networks will be configured to support a wide variety of industrial and business use cases. This means that, going forward, carriers will be responsible for managing mission-critical systems and devices, in addition to handling high volumes of sensitive data. In a 5G environment, there will be a strong emphasis on securing smart factories, automated production lines and fleets of driverless cars. The network security stakes have suddenly got a lot higher.

As new 5G network architectures are based on virtualization and distributed cloud models and a containerized environment to support workloads and applications, it’s apparent that carriers have to deal with a whole new set of complexities. Existing security protocols will need to be scrapped and replaced with robust systems and procedures that account for this newly complex environment and the burgeoning 5G value chain. That chain includes application developers, device manufacturers, cloud service providers and the carriers themselves. A new built-in resilience is required to limit the attack landscape and to reduce the risk of malicious attacks and perimeter breaches.

A pervasive security model that offers comprehensive insight on both service performance management and security offers the best solution to address 5G security. It enables service providers to extract ‘smart data’ that is collected and processed at the source from legacy, virtual and hybrid cloud environments. It’s the closest carriers and their customers will ever get to implementing ‘holistic security’ across their entire IT estate.

Delivering a Future Smarter Network with 5G

As illustrated by these four examples, 5G will differ quite a bit from 4G LTE. Unlike previous generations of mobile network technologies, 5G is an overlay to 4G, and not a rip-out-and-replace scenario. The need for visibility into this 4G/5G interworking and new virtual infrastructures and automation is clear. For service providers that are rolling out 5G and planning to realize all of the promised benefits, having fast and accurate smart data tools can deliver critical visibility into the performance characteristics and security of any given service is essential to success.


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