By Valid’s Mobile Global Team

05/26/2021

How can we solve the security aspects related to 5G networks?

5G is the most advanced network generation released to date. It is not just an evolution of its previous mobile network generation, but rather a way to bring the promising digital transformation to the masses and to disrupt and automate our lives. The 5G network can enhance the mobile broadband and guarantee massive machine-type ultra-reliable communications in addition to low latency communications.

As a result, Smart Cities will come to life like never before, and millions of “things” will be connected and transmitting data instantly to the cloud. However, for that to happen smoothly, there will be a need for more edge-processing and smarter devices, which might be a concern to the network’s security.

To protect the 5G environment, mobile operators, OEMs, and third partners will need to be vigilant and work with the latest authentication available, as well as data encryption technology, to assure the integrity of the 5G network and its shared data. There will be a need to ensure that access to the data is restricted to the right people and devices so that if a breach occurs, this sensitive data is worthless to the attackers due to its encryption. In order to access its full potential, 5G’s main pillars should be data privacy and network security.

In our previous blog post, we focused on discussing data privacy concerns when it comes to 5G. In this article, we will focus our efforts in understanding the security aspects of this new network generation. Because of the different possibilities 5G technology brings to the mobile world, every project that involves the usage of 5G must be well-thought out and protected. In order to fully secure the 5G network, we need to take into account the following:

  1. All devices connected to the network need to be fully authenticated.
  2. The users also need to be authenticated correctly inside their own devices, assuring the right usage of connectivity and cloud services.
  3. The network itself needs to be constantly protected and updated to prevent future attacks.
  4. Data needs to be secure and protected according to its value – there should be a cost implication for the misuse of this information.
  5. Because of its virtualized functions and the power to slice the network, there must be focus on properly building its structure, protecting the virtualized networks, and isolating the slice networks.

To tackle those goals, the mobile industry will need to work on security by design principles, such as the usage of mutual authentication (guaranteeing both sender and receiver have established trust and the exchange is secure) and encryption of inter or intra-network traffic, to keep the data safe from hackers. Another network protection to be set in place is signaling data integrity that aims at protecting the home network edge, preventing eavesdropping and replay attacks with an extra layer of security.

According to GSMA, The 5G network is already designed to establish security controls for the threats seen today in our previous networks. With mutual authentication capabilities and additional security mechanisms, the last layer of protection rests at enhancing the subscriber identity protection.

The industry answer for this is 5G SIMs or 5G eSIMs: tamper-proof secure elements designed for the fifth network generation (5G) that offers higher security. 5G SIMS/eSIMs have data anonymization capabilities to protect a customer’s personal identity inside the network, creating a trusted environment. Mobile Operators are able to remotely change or restore the 5G SIM card or eSIM authentication credentials during their lifecycle without the need to physically change it in case its security is compromised. Key rotation management applications are also set in place to improve the customer experience and prevent cyber-attacks.

The purpose of 5G is to give industry players a wide range of service possibilities and allow Mobile Operators to capitalize on that. It’s an opportunity to improve today’s network security aspects and keep consumers’ data safer, while accessing higher levels of broadband and speed. The trust environment needs to be created so 5G can access its full potential.