Speaking the language of 5G: Becoming proficient in securing the next generation of connectivity


By Shain Singh, 5G & Cloud Security Architect APCJ, F5

The allure and potential of 5G have caught the attention of both governments and businesses that are keen to harness the power of technology. Mobile connectivity is headed for a major transformation as the rollout of 5G networks intensifies and speeds up across Asia Pacific (APAC), especially amid an ongoing pandemic this year. However, deploying a 5G infrastructure will be the most challenging next-generation network rollout ever, in terms of scale, scope, and most importantly, security.

Picture this: You receive a relocation notification from your company, and in the next six months, you will be transferred to another country to expand the business. You now have only half a year to become proficient in a foreign language and different cultural practices before the big shift. This is precisely the type of issue many telecommunication providers are facing or are about to face when it comes to transitioning from 3G/4G networks to 5G.

The telecom sector in India is expected to see some major advances through its use across various businesses via wireless services. In fact, at India Mobile Congress last year, Reliance Jio announced their aim to launch 5G technology in India by the second half of 2021. The roll-out will not only boost data speeds but also disrupt India’s traditional industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, and education – enhanced by the implementation of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities.

Telecom providers in other APAC markets are also pushing ahead with their 5G initiatives. In 2019, Japan’s Rakuten Mobile launched the “world’s first” fully virtualised, cloud-native 5G mobile network, while Bangladesh’s Robi Axiata is the only mobile operator to have successfully conducted 5G trials, and launched Voice over LTE technology before any operator on its network in the local market.

With the rate at which 5G is developing, how will providers secure their networks if they are still in the learning phase trying to grasp the rudimentary knowledge of 5G networks?

Understanding 5G’s Building Blocks

While 5G is touted to deliver up to 100 times the bandwidth of existing speeds, such software-based, high-performance network requires adequate protection against new threats and vulnerabilities on a massive scale, and at every layer.

In a recent global study conducted by Accenture, over one-third (35%) of business and technology decision-makers expressed concerns around the security of 5G. While more than half (62%) believe that 5G will render them more vulnerable to cyberattacks, three-quarters (74%) of respondents said they are looking to redefine their policies and procedures related to security as 5G materializes.

The security concerns are well-founded. Transitioning to 5G may require businesses to transform their entire network architectures. There are significant costs involved and how fast service providers can navigate this uncharted territory will determine their competitive edge and profitability. There are many factors at play as businesses migrate their networks to accommodate the expectations for stellar performance, latest features, and complete security to a multitude of devices and applications that will be powered by 5G.

Gaining proficiency in a new language

One of the looming security threats with 5G deployment is the increase of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. By targeting networks of internet-connected devices, DDoS attacks are known to bring down services and expose customer data by overloading traffic to a server – in which the impact on businesses and end-users can be detrimental.

With IDC forecasting 41.6 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices connected by 2025, the threat of DDoS attacks in the 5G era is more relevant than ever. As the number of devices to protect grows exponentially, automation will be the language of 5G.

What will this automation look like? Businesses will need security platforms that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to provide full visibility and real-time insights to handle security issues such as DDoS attacks more intelligently. The real-time communication between technology tools and actionable insights will be key in minimising the latency between detecting and mitigating attacks, resulting in reduced downtime, and ensuring network availability.

In F5’s State of Application Services 2020: Telecom Edition, to make 5G a reality, we found that 91 percent of service providers are already engaged in digital transformation initiatives by adopting cloud, automation and orchestration, and network function virtualization (NFV). This would help maximise the substantial investments in their current networks while optimising their infrastructure to deploy their 5G networks at a rapid pace.

With automation, businesses can then keep up with the scale required to deploy their 5G network infrastructure while driving efficiency and speed into the availability of new products and services.

Elevating your language skills

In a world that increasingly depends on wireless technologies, 5G presents a gamut of opportunities for businesses, and it is set to become the digital backbone of the future. This next generation of ubiquitous ultra-high broadband infrastructure will not only elevate our mobility and connectivity, it also represents a step-change in being able to meet the growing scale and complexity of consumer demands for digital experiences.

Gaining proficiency in the 5G language will not be an effortless task. It will hinge on telecommunication service providers gaining a full understanding of the network and its potential vulnerabilities – being able to properly secure their networks to get their 5G capabilities up and running. And this journey begins with learning and mastering the new language of network mobility.


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