The Evolution of Security in 5G


INTRODUCTION

5G will a diverse new set of services and use cases affecting nearly every aspect of our lives. But to live up to their potential, 5G-enabled applications must be delivered securely.

For example, 5G will enable Massive Internet of Things (MIoT) applications such as the traffic sensors and
Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) services that are the foundation for smart cities. It’s critical that hackers can’t
access that data.

Security has been a top architectural priority with all previous mobile generations. For
example, Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 8 added a variety of advanced
security/authentication mechanisms via nodes such as the services capability server, while Release 11
provided additional capabilities to enable secure access to the core network. These and other 4G-era
additions are noteworthy because LTE is the foundation for 5G, including its security mechanisms.

5G creates new cyber security considerations. Its use of the cloud and edge computing, and convergence of mobile and traditional IT networks, create new attack vectors.

5G Attacks Types

  1. Zero-day attacks are threats that don’t already have either a fingerprint or previous history
    (signature). 
  2. Day-one attacks are threats that have a signature or fingerprint and, quite often, a mitigation
    strategy exists in advance to handle the attack.

Why Security is important Factor at 5G

5G is the first mobile technology designed to meet the unique requirements of connected cars, connected
cities (smart cities), connected homes (smart homes), wearable, health care devices/applications, smart
appliances and other IoT devices.

Example : IoT Market 

Many of the “things” that make up the IoT landscape have zero-day vulnerabilities, which
are security holes in software discovered by the hackers, of which the vendors are ‘as yet’ unaware. The
5G evolution means billions of these things, collectively referred to as MIoT, will be using the 5G Radio
Access Network (RAN). 

5G Security Vision

                                                                 Source : Nokia
  • Higher level of security
    • Increased robustness against cyber attacks.
    • Enhanced privacy.
    • Security assurance.
  • Higher flexibility in the selection of security mechanisms
    • Alternative identification and authentication procedures.
    • User plane encryption and integrity protection optional to use.
    • Adjust security mechanisms per network slice.
  • Higher degree of security automation
    • Holistic security orchestration and management.
    • Self-adaptive, intelligent security controls.

The main security enhancements in 5G 

• Secure communications and state of the art encryption and integrity protection mechanisms are utilized in 5G to
  protect the user plane, control plane and management traffic.

• Unified authentication framework for the various 5G access technologies and devices. 
• User privacy protection for the information that can be used by unauthorized parties to identify
  and track subscribers (for example, protecting permanent identifiers such as SUPI, IMSI, and IMEI).
• Secure Service-Based Architecture and slice isolation that enable different services and applications to implement    optimized security mechanisms and prevent attacks from spreading to other slices.
• RBS detection and mitigation techniques, utilizing UE-assisted RBS-detection mechanisms and
  radio-reporting analytics.

CONCLUSION

5G may be seen as evolutionary in the context of cellular technology generations. Key functions and
frameworks specific to previous generations (3G, 4G) continue to work within the overall 5G umbrella.

For example, the 5G Radio (NR) can be “plugged” into a 4G core, a backward compatibility feature that did
not exist for either 3G or 4G radios, as well as coexist with 4G radios as part of the overall network.

References:

  • Nokia White paper.
  • 3GPP.
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