Pillars of private 5G networks #1: Security

A private network allows you to control your infrastructure and protect your data, but that also means that the security of this network becomes a point of attention. 5G provides a higher level of security than other technologies. Learn how to protect your private 5G network throughout its lifecycle.

The importance of security for private 5G networks

Whether you use your private 5G network for controlling a robot, transporting process data, or assuring the security of workers, the data that is transmitted over the network needs to be secured. Secured against interception where data is compromised by an unauthorized actor, service interruption caused by a Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, data modification like with a man-in-the-middle attack, or insertion of malicious data because of spoofing or phishing.

To assure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, various mitigation techniques are well known. Protection of the network with firewalls, encryption of data, and role-based access control are measures widely used in IT networks that also apply to private networks. When designing your private 5G solution, the security of the system needs to be an important factor.

Private 5G much more secure than 4G and WiFi

The 5G technology provides a higher level of security than a 4G mobile network or WiFi. Existing 4G features have been enhanced and new security features have been introduced with the introduction of the 5G standard. 

First, the primary authentication, when a device connects to the network, has been enhanced with respect to 4G. The authentication frameworks have been improved, including a stronger 5G-AKA (Authentication and Key Agreement) scheme. Additional EAP-AKA’ and EAP-TLS frameworks have been added, to allow other types of devices to connect and authenticate to a 5G network using certificates. Last, a longer key hierarchy that makes it less easy to break with brute force attacks.

Other enhancements in 5G are that less information is sent without being encrypted towards the network. The identity of the user (IMSI) is no longer sent in clear text, to enhance subscriber privacy, and it has become possible to protect the integrity of the dataplane between the device and radio. This helps to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, which were possible in 4G with false base stations and even more common in WiFi networks when using public hotspots.

The use of a SIM card allows for a dedicated hardware component to store security information (certificates, keys, or username/password), which is a more secure mechanism used for WiFi where this information is stored in the device itself. 

Protect your 5G network infrastructure

As a first step, it is important to protect the private 5G network against possible cybersecurity threats. This will limit or contain the impact of a potential event. Not only by choosing the 5G technology with its enhanced security as described above but also by implementing appropriate safeguards like role-based access control for administrators and complementing password management policies, training your employees on security and creating awareness for potential social engineering attacks, ensuring timely upgrades and being up to date with the latest patches.

Protecting against possible security events is not sufficient to safeguard a private 5G network. Not all problems can be foreseen and mitigated beforehand. During the runtime of the network, detection of cybersecurity events and response after detection are of utmost importance. For example, to detect an ongoing DDoS attack, coming from the devices in your network and isolate them. 

To deal with these constant and evolving threats, Obvios has designed a unique embedded solution, Dome Intelligent Security. This technology features a real detector of different cyber threats, reinforcing network protection. In particular, it enables the detection of the occurrence of a security event in a timely manner and responds with effective countermeasures automatically.