5G is not just the next evolution. It is the next networking revolution.
The speed of 5G is exponentially faster than 4G, and while low-latency and even ultra-low-latency networks have many benefits and are driving very valuable business applications (for example, closed-loop systems driving true automation for real time IoT implementations), security concerns are emerging fast too.
With so many new use cases for mobile data and new business opportunities for service providers and their enterprise customers, it may make sense to slow down a bit and take security into consideration as a forethought—not an afterthought—when designing offerings.
South Korea, China, Japan, and the US began the formal launch of 5G networks last year, and while the UK won’t be ready to roll out 5G until 2020—in large part due to security precautions—the UK’s largest operators are well underway in the engineering and design of their infrastructure and service builds.
Unlike 2G, 3G, 4G, and LTE mobile networks, with 5G there will be a variety of technologies, approaches, software platforms, and equipment; at the same time, smartphones and other personal communications devices will change to rolling out as “5G ready.” Adding to the variety, IoT and Industrial IoT endpoints (which are expected to surpass the number of human beings on the planet in the very near future) will require that 5G adapt even as it grows.
Qualcomm forecasts the 5G industry will generate up to $3.5 trillion in revenue in 2035 and support as many as 22 million jobs. The company has also forecast that 5G will boost global GDP growth by $3 trillion from 2020 to 2035.
5G Opens the Doors for New Opportunities
There are many business benefits beyond the transformational impact on the global economy and society. 5G has the potential to drive unprecedented productivity, improve business performance by saving time and money, and increase revenue. Remote workers will have better tools and collaboration applications will function better—imagine video conferencing with no lag and less awkward voice conference calls.
Together, augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), which are dependent on a reliable 5G network, will humanize remote working, even bringing ultra-skilled specialist surgeons into operating rooms from thousands of miles away.
With advances including network slicing, it will be possible for an enterprise to virtually own their own private 5G network and with new software networking control platforms, enterprises can use spectrum intelligently and with real time agility, prioritizing applications and shifting resources on a dime.
Securing the Next Generation of Mobile Networks
However, we will not manifest this value unless we make sure this generation of mobile networks is the most secure network we’ve ever developed together, as a community. In the context of all this opportunity and excitement, here’s where security becomes more challenging than ever.
In order to protect every conversation, every session, every data set, and to comply with increasing privacy and consumer protection laws, we need highly intelligent software programmability, particularly for mission-critical networks and applications.
When 5G is based on increasingly automated, shared network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVI), we have a common roadmap that can solve collective problems. At the same time, the dynamic nature of 5G makes it particularly susceptible to the same attacks that we see over typical fixed and broadband access, including DoS and DDoS and infiltrate/exfiltrate compromises.
Here are six recommendations for service providers and enterprises as they continue to prepare for 5G.
- Understand the expanding attack surface. Take inventory of who (or which systems) can compromise the network to ensure system and data integrity. Study your options and explore the latest security software, tools, and services, so you find the ideal fit into an overall network and applications security architecture.
- Work with the innovators. This will help you to understand their new products, services, and related business models, and become as competent as possible in understanding specific requirements for security, including securing voice, messaging, and embedded real time communications and collaboration.
- Create a roadmap. This includes initial testing, thoughtful roll outs, and an eventual move to a full 5G platform. You must also architect the transformation knowing which locations, applications, services, people, and devices move to 5G, in what order, and why.
- Constantly follow new cyberthreats. This includes those which have surfaced in the last few years—for example, DDoS attacks on Dyn which took down PayPal, Twitter, and other massive online businesses, and the Mirai botnet pivoting into unprotected IoT devices before taking down entire networks.
- Study up on new smartphones and other devices. Start planning your transition now by looking into new policies for BYOD (or provisioned company devices) and take the opportunity to include 5G in your regular refresh programs.
- Invest in analytics and machine learning security tools. Manual security tactics are not sufficient enough to protect the enterprise. Enterprises will need to shift to analytics and machine learning-based approaches that provide real-time, automated mitigation to protect their employees, their brands, and their intellectual property. Proper defenses should include in-depth approaches that will monitor all data and broker automated actions within the enterprise, between the enterprise and service provider, and within the service provider’s network.
More and more organizations are getting ready for the arrival of 5G cellular service, including Verizon, Sprint and AT&T in the US. By the end of 2020, the industry expects to replace 4G. Before we make the transition to 5G, we must take the necessary steps to ensure mission-critical networks and applications are fully secure from the myriad of threats that this next-generation network can be exposed to.