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The triangle of trust: What security means to 5G operations

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The more trust customers have in a service, the more likely they are to buy it — and to keep buying from its provider. This is true today and will be especially so in the coming years as new 5G services are launched. Those 5G services will be aimed not only at consumers but also at enterprises, which will put trust at a premium because their critical business data (and their reputations) are also at stake. 

For communications service providers (CSPs), building trust will demand end-to-end optimization of security operations from devices and access sites to the cloud edge and network core. That requires a combination of insight, scalability and adaptiveness: the three sides of the “triangle of trust”.

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1. Insight

As cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated and complex, it’s important for businesses to constantly improve their security posture. That means being able to measure their current level of readiness for cyber threats, both internal and external. It also requires presenting security metrics to board members and C-level executives to show the risks they potentially face, the likely impact of cyber threats on their business goals and the costs that could be incurred.

Some form of security assessment can help CSPs gather that insight — one that thoroughly reviews their business environment, service offerings, network architecture, existing security controls, staff skills with cybersecurity technologies, and legal and regulatory compliance requirements.

This assessment then provides a framework for designing a 5G “security control playbook” that covers many different operational scenarios. That might include, for instance, how to securely launch a new service that gives enterprise customers direct control of the network slice used to connect industrial Internet of Things assets — ensuring user privacy and data confidentiality between different enterprise tenants and partners.

2. Scalability

Once they have deeper insight into their security posture, CSPs can scale up their security capabilities to protect the networks and data of customers of all sizes, across any industry vertical.

Defending against threats at scale can’t be done with slow, manual processes. It requires artificial intelligence (AI) to scan incoming and ongoing network traffic at volumes impossible for humans, as well as cognitive analytics to aggregate and correlate security data from many different sources. AI and analytics can also be used to compare network traffic packets with historical patterns and spot anomalies instantly — alerting security teams so they can decide on the best course of action.

But not every CSP will have the in-house skills, resources or security capabilities to address the full spectrum of cyber threats. For some, the best way to defend the network at scale will be to have an outside expert handle security operations under a managed services agreement. These agreements can cover day-to-day management of the CSP’s security operations including 24/7 threat prevention, detection, response and recovery. As regulatory and compliance requirements in data privacy become more stringent and fines and penalties increasingly severe, bringing in a specialized partner can significantly reduce risk.

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Some managed security services can be provided as “white label” offerings for CSPs to sell under their own brand to their enterprise customers. That way, they also get the scalability to protect the network, applications and data from end to end across fixed and mobile technologies — for any number of 5G slices, all tuned to the unique needs of their customers.

3. Adaptiveness

CSPs will have to become highly adaptive to respond quickly and in the most appropriate way to ever-shifting and rapidly evolving cyberattacks. No security operations team will be able to manually provide end-to-end security across multiple 5G slices as well as the vast array of machines and endpoints that connect to and exchange data with the 5G network. The right software will be critical to integrate and automate a vast number of security management functions, including encryption, two-factor authentication, audit compliance, privileged access management, threat intelligence, certificate management and network-based malware detection.

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Security management is more challenging in 5G networks because they cross many discrete infrastructure domains and contain numerous physical and virtual network functions. The complexity of the architecture — distributed RAN, cloud RAN, edge core, cloud core — can greatly increase the time and effort needed to provision services to satisfy varied service-level agreements.

Adaptive security operations can handle this complexity with automated workflows that constantly measure risk levels, control access to key operational systems and assets, detect threats earlier in the mitigation chain and orchestrate the best response to legitimate incidents. This results in quicker time to resolution — and by offloading the burden of manual, repetitive tasks, security analysts can focus more on proactive threat-hunting.

Three sides to the triangle, one trusted partner

In the 5G era, security cannot be an afterthought. It needs to be put in place right from the start, when new services are first being planned. Otherwise, the trust won’t be there — and the incredible new revenue opportunities that come with 5G could pass you by. And no matter how you want to build that trust with your enterprise customers, Nokia can help.

Discover more:

eBook: Building trust through automated security operations
Use case: Building trust in the 5G industrial IoT ecosystem
Brochure: Managed Security Services
Brochure: Security Risk Index
Solution page: NetGuard Adaptive Security Operations
Webinar: 5G security: impact on operations and networks

Find out more on our Operations in 5G – Build Trust webpage

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #Telcos #Operations

Gerald Reddig

About Gerald Reddig

Gerald leads the global portfolio marketing efforts for Nokia’s security solutions. He is a member of the broadband forum, directs Nokia´s membership in the IoT Cybersecurity Alliance and steers Nokia´s Security center in Finland. Gerald is on the speaker’s circuit at international conferences and a recognized author on the topics he’s passionate about: cybersecurity technology, data privacy and finding the right solutions to prevent vulnerabilities, hacker trojans or man-in-the-middle attacks.

Tweet me at @geraldreddig

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