Effectively protect 5G networks from cyber attacks

5G-Netzwerke effektiv vor Cyberangriffen schützen

5G and Cybersecurity

Sustainably secure the 5G edge and minimize cyber attack surfaces

The advantages of the 5G mobile communications standard are manifold – from real-time communication and optimized network stability to networked mobility offers.

But 5G is also very popular with cybercriminals. Companies are required to identify the weak points of the new standard and adapt their network security strategies accordingly.

We spoke with Sunil Ravi, Chief Security Architect at SASE specialist Versa Networks , about how companies can sustainably secure the 5G edge and minimize their cyber attack surface.

5G is both a blessing and a curse. To what extent do companies face new threats?

In the past, when the majority of the network infrastructure still consisted mainly of hardware, the attack surface of the companies was manageable and therefore still manageable. But with the introduction of software-defined networking and network virtualization, networks have been created that require little or no hardware. 5G is the best example of this: the mix of software and hardware infrastructure used here makes security more complicated and dramatically increases the attack surface.

While companies benefit from faster connection speeds and higher network performance with the use of 5G, at the same time the risk of becoming victims of unprecedented threats, such as DDoS attacks on 5G service interfaces or cyber attacks on the IoT ecosystem, is also increasing.

The connection of mobile devices to 5G networks means that people can move freely and their location is no longer static. And this is exactly the perfect scenario for threat actors. These first try to infect an employee in the infrastructure of a software or product provider, and then spread to the entire company in lateral movements. If hackers have the opportunity to transfer malware to a large number of devices in one fell swoop, they will not miss this opportunity.“

Why are companies not yet prepared for such dangers? What is lacking in the implementation of security measures, especially in product development?

The fact is that the telecommunications industry is currently massively lacking in security expertise and the security aspect is only subsequently paid attention to in most telco companies. The market launch strategy still has a higher priority and security quickly fades into the background. Threats are not always thoroughly researched, so security decisions are often made at the end of the product life cycle, rather than at the development stage.

Of course, this approach to security is extremely dangerous, because cybercriminals are constantly developing new techniques to attack companies. One of the latest attack methods is malware, which has a short dwell time. So, threat actors only need a small window of time to penetrate a company’s network and cause significant damage.

Although it can be observed that awareness of the importance of cybersecurity in product development is generally increasing in companies, the recruitment of cybersecurity experts is progressing slowly.

In addition to greater awareness of the new risks, what concrete measures must companies take to increase safety?

In times of location-independent work, it must be ensured that every single communication is actually secure. This means that every phase of the product life cycle really has to include the safety aspect. However, this only works if potential security risks are thoroughly researched and investigated in advance. If companies lack this overview, they cannot guarantee that they have taken the right measures.

And even after the launch of a product, you can not rest: after all, hackers are constantly evolving, so that protective measures that were taken during the development of a product and were sufficient at that time can be overcome at some point after the release. If companies follow the motto Build it, Deploy it and Forget about it, sooner or later they will fail, because security must be thought of as a continuous process. The good thing about software, however, is that changes and updates can be carried out continuously in the background, without any downtime for the user.

Is light already visible at the end of the tunnel, i.e. has the industry already learned something in terms of security when implementing 5G networks?

When it comes to the implementation of 5G networks, the industry still has many lessons to learn in terms of security. This is also due to the fact that the security risks of network virtualization have not yet been fully researched and there are still gaps in the security policies for this emerging and rapidly growing market.

However, what we have already learned is that with the connection of multi-access edge computing (MEC) with 5G networks, the probability of becoming a victim of a burglary increases. We understood that threat actors can not only take control of a network, but also infect the software to further damage the networks of enterprises.

In addition to multi Access edge computing (MEC), the number of IoT devices connected to 5G networks has also significantly increased the attack surface of companies. And since IoT devices usually have weak security measures, they are the perfect entry point for threat actors to infiltrate a corporate network and cause significant damage. Therefore, it is extremely important to implement segmentation in the networks. This not only prevents cyber attacks from spreading laterally, but also enables a quick identification of break-ins, so that security teams can contain them in a timely manner.

Security is the alpha and omega – no question – but in addition to security, network performance is also crucial. How can companies strike a balance here?

A good balance between security and network performance is essential and can be ensured if both aspects are given equal priority. If companies want to achieve this, it is advisable to rely on the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) cloud architecture model.

SASE ensures a closer integration of security and networks and ensures that all security risks are taken into account without affecting network performance in any way. The segmentation of the network thanks to SASE limits the spread of malware and ultimately mitigates the impact of cyber attacks.

At the same time, SASE helps organizations implement the right security policies and ensure that traffic is correctly identified, classified, and segmented. Not all network traffic is the same, so security policies also need to be different to account for the discrepancies. SASE is the ultimate Swiss army knife when it comes to the security and performance of 5G networks.

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