Establishing a New Approach for 5G Security

Palo Alto Networks recently joined the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance to help drive industry recommendations for securing 5G networks. NGMN plays a key role within the mobile communications industry to drive technology recommendations to the industry standards groups and includes influential representatives from most of the world’s largest mobile operators. We’re still in the early stages of the evolution to 5G, and Palo Alto Networks will work to lead and ensure that critical security capabilities are placed into standards so that Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) can enable a 5G ecosystem from which their customers will fully benefit.


With 5G, The Stakes Are High

Critical new services are emerging such as self-driving cars, remote health care, emergency response, and wide-ranging industry applications that will leverage the Internet of Things (IoT). These services will depend on networks, and security is the key enabler and differentiator. There is opportunity for MNOs to create higher value networks centered around security so that enterprises can confidently deploy new applications and maximize their business value with 5G.

At the NGMN Conference & Exhibition this week in Vancouver, there were discussions and presentations on business and strategic objectives with 5G, as well as the evolution of the industry standards, technology, and updates on deployments. Security was a key topic throughout the week. Lee Klarich, Chief Product Officer at Palo Alto Networks, presented at the conference and shared some perspectives around why 5G is different, the increasing importance of security in 5G, and the need for new a new approach in designing security into 5G network architectures. Ibrahim Gedeon, Chief Technology Officer at TELUS, chaired the session and accurately stated that we “need to add security into the networks by design”.

With 5G, more devices and critical services will move onto these networks and the threat actors will follow. Legacy approaches that depend on disconnected and uncorrelated security elements will not scale and will not see and stop attacks across 5G networks. Encrypting traffic won’t catch advanced threats that hide within applications or stop multi-stage attacks,  and simply making legacy security run faster won’t work. Dealing with 5G security challenges and risk factors requires a holistic and transformative security approach across the mobile networks that allows MNOs to:

  • Adopt a preventative 5G network security posture. 5G networks need to be better equipped to proactively find threats and vulnerabilities before they become an issue with application / L7 visibility and controls across all layers including application, signaling and data, at all locations. With billions of connected devices and critical enterprise applications now relying on 5G networks, MNOs cannot wait to address attacks and security incidents after they have already happened.
  • Increase levels of security automation – at cloud scale. With virtualized and highly distributed networks, effective 5G security outcomes will require actionable insights at cloud-scale. Cloud based threat prevention mechanisms powered by advanced big data analytics and machine learning techniques is critical to provide swift response to known and unknown threats in real-time. With device-initiated botnet attacks becoming more likely in 5G, cloud automated prevention mechanisms allow MNOs to not only find but isolate infected devices.
  • Integrate security functions with open APIs. An efficient single pass platform with open APIs provides operational simplicity with NFV/SDN architectures. As 4G/5G networks evolve, more functions will become virtualized and deployed in Telco Cloud environments. Advanced network security efficacy can also be put in place with 4G today so that MNOs can seamlessly evolve with the Cloud-ready NFV supporting open APIs offers consistent security across software and hardware which will be required to support distributed 5G architectures.

Having these necessary security capabilities in place with 5G will allow MNOs to best protect their own network elements while providing differentiated network security services for enterprises who can then confidently transform their business operations with new 5G applications. As Lee stated in his presentation, “attackers will use automation and will find the least secure portion of your networks to exploit.”

For Palo Alto Networks, it’s exciting to begin collaboration with NGMN, and participating at their annual Industry Conference in Vancouver was a great step forward. “We are honored to welcome Palo Alto Networks to the NGMN Alliance. As a cyber security leader, Palo Alto Networks will serve on the Security Competence Team to directly contribute to the development of 5G Security standards,” said Peter Meissner, Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance, CEO.

Read more about our approach to pave the way for a secure 5G evolution here.




Palo Alto Networks:  Security for Mobile Network Operators

NGMN White Paper:   Security Aspects of Network Capabilities Exposure  

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