December 14, 2023

5G network security: A new era of connectivity and security challenges

Network Visibility & Security

With 5G, the potential to connect individuals, objects, and an array of devices with higher frequencies and less interference is not just some futuristic goal; it’s becoming a tangible reality. In fact, in a recent GSMA report, while there is still room for 4G to grow, there will be an estimated 1.8 billion of 5G connections by 2025.

The allure of 5G lies in its robust capabilities: higher user speeds that dwarf those of its predecessors, extremely low latency that achieves submillisecond delays, and a reliable network performance that paves the way for innovations we’re only beginning to imagine. Autonomous vehicles, smart cities, telemedicine, and more are all within reach, thanks to 5G.

5G cybersecurity issues on the rise

Despite all the excitement around 5G’s unprecedented performance, there are nevertheless emerging challenges—especially cybersecurity. The very features that make 5G a technological innovation also make it a target for cybersecurity threats. The reasons: 5G’s software architecture approach and the way they are designed to integrate with a wide range of devices and applications.

Here’s why:

  1. Expanded attack surface: Unlike previous generations, 5G networks are built on a service-based architecture, which introduces a level of flexibility and functionality that surpasses its predecessors. However, it also means that cyber attackers can exploit more potential vulnerabilities.
  2. Increases in bandwidth and connection density: 5G networks are designed to support massive connections per square kilometre—far more than 4G. This increased density makes 5G networks more complex and, by extension, potentially more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. The sheer number of devices, including IoT devices that are not always fully designed with sophisticated security measures in mind, creates numerous entry points for attackers. These devices can be compromised to launch large-scale cyberattacks or become the gateways to accessing more critical network functions and data.
  3. End-to-end cybersecurity complexity: Ensuring end-to-end security of 5G is not as easy as it seems: it involves both core and edge networks, where data is processed closer to the user to optimize performance. While this design supports the low latency and high speeds of 5G, it can also disperse a network operator’s security perimeter, making centralized security monitoring and management more challenging. In other words, maintaining security across the entire network is difficult when the network’s edge extends into users’ homes and devices.
  4. Dependency on third-party vendors: 5G networks often rely on components and software from many vendors. This can introduce risks related to the security practices of third parties. If one vendor’s security measures are compromised, it can have a cascading effect throughout the entire network. The integration of these various components must be seamless and secure, which adds multiple layers of complexity given the number of parties involved.

So how can 5G operators better prepare for today’s potential cyberattacks—and future-proof their networks? Let’s explore how.

So how can 5G operators better prepare for today’s potential cyberthreats—and future-proof their networks? Let’s explore how.

Boost organizational resilience: Preparing for the inevitable

Cybersecurity is not just about preventing attacks but also about preparing for when they occur. In fact, with an unprecedented rise in advanced persistent threats and sophisticated cybervandalism, organizational resilience becomes key. This means adopting a mindset that an attack is not just a possibility but an eventuality. By developing action plans that detect, assess, remediate, and recover from threats, organizations can bounce back faster and stronger.

A multi-pronged approach to preparation: Training, testing, and tools

The transition to 5G demands rigorous organizational preparation. This involves comprehensive training of personnel, strict and consistent testing of products and systems, and continual process improvement. Automation and sophisticated tools, like those offered by Novapex, are essential to maintain a high level of preparedness. These measures not only strengthens defenses but also enhance the ability to respond swiftly and effectively to any incursion.

End-to-end 5G network visibility: Critical for cybersecurity readiness

As mentioned before, with more users, devices, systems, and access points, the potential for exposure increases exponentially with 5G. Security visibility throughout an entire network is extremely important. It ensures that threats are detected early and can be contained before they spread and cause devastating impacts on users. Tools that provide real-time monitoring and alerts are invaluable assets in an organization’s security arsenal.

As service providers and network operators strive to offer pervasive, zero-lag, and reliable connectivity, the spectre of rapidly spreading vulnerabilities looms large. Virtualized networks, open APIs, connected devices, mandatory interoperability, and the massive use of Linux create a fertile ground for cybercriminals. In the industrial sector and national security, espionage and cyberwarfare are real threats that can have devastating consequences around the globe.

One alarming statistic: the majority of current 5G network operators experienced up to 6 cyber incidents, namely ransomware and phishing attacks, in 2022 alone. In 2023, attacks included IoT bots, malware attacks, and DDoS attacks generated by botnets

Addressing the many facets of 5G network security requires a knowledgeable and experienced partner. Novapex is strategically positioned at the forefront of 5G cybersecurity solutions and equipment. We offer proven expertise that can help secure your 5G network against the multifaceted threats of the digital age. Contact Novapex to explore how we can develop and deploy the right cybersecurity approach for your business—and ensure that you are not left vulnerable as networks speed up.