With the imminent entry into service of the 5G mobile communications standard, concern about the security of this new standard is growing every day, which is a good sign because it demonstrates the degree of awareness that society is adopting with respect to security. A few years ago, when faced with a new product, the usual question was, “Is it a new product? good? Now the question is commonly asked, is it safe? The following article aims to evaluate the security of 5G technology in a simple way.
It is estimated that 5G technology will be able to provide a wide variety of services to users thanks to new technological resources that will be used for the first time in mobile communications systems. Fortunately, 5G technology includes a number of security enhancements such as those detailed below:
- Comprehensive protection at the user levelPrevious generations were focused on voice service and data services were offered as an added value, so the quality of service for the user was not fully protected. In 5G technology, the user plane is designed to offer comprehensive protection from the moment the service is launched.
- Service-based architecture: The core or core of the network control plane has been designed with reference to IT technology. Security is managed through access authorization and authentication using a secure TLS communication channel (TLS).Transport Layer Security).
- Interconnection security: The biggest security drawback in today’s mobile communications networks is during roaming interconnections. In 5G technology, traffic is established between networks of different providers through the Security Edge service. Protection Proxy (SEPP). This service guarantees end-to-end confidentiality and integrity between the source network and the destination network, ensuring secure traffic between 5G networks of different providers.
- NAS Security from the first message: The Non-Access Protocol Stratum (NAS) protocol is used to encrypt information between the user’s equipment and the MME (Mobility Management Entity), which makes it possible, unlike previous generations of mobile systems, to provide security from the very first message sent. In previous generations, the voice channel was first established and then the secure context was created through which the data was transmitted. In contrast, 5G technology establishes a secure context from the first instant and if you want to talk later, a context for voice is created, but within the secure environment that has already been set up.
- Centralized authentication and home access control: 5G technology networks will be accessible not only through the radio network, but also through wifi networks or wired networks, so a single authentication method is provided so that access can be gained using any technology. At the same time, to reduce fraud, a home access control is provided that allows you to configure the devices so that, if you wish, transactions can only be made from the network that you have previously determined.
- Improvements in personal privacy: In previous generations of mobile systems, at the time of authentication to the network, the user was assigned a temporary subscriber ID. To do this, the request and user identification information was sent unencrypted over the radio interface. In 5G technology, the identification will be permanent and globally unique, called SUPI (Subscriber Permanent Identifier) and will be located on each subscriber’s computer. This identification is always transmitted in encrypted form, so that the user’s identification cannot be intercepted at the radio interface at any time.
The question that arises is why, if there is so much security, is there a rumor that 5G is unsafe? To understand it in a simple way, imagine you have a classroom with a capacity of 25 children and you put in three restless children with three teachers. Under these conditions you could say that safety can be kept under control. Now introduce nine more little ones, and maintaining security becomes a little more complicated, right? What will happen if we introduce twelve more? We’d better not. What is certain is that, even if we don’t exceed the capacity of the room, overall security will decrease as the number of children entering the room increases.
The same happens with 5G technology, although it is secure, the fact that a greater number of devices can make use of it, means that security is compromised, but not by the network, but by the devices. Many IoT devices are likely to be rushed to market without the recommended security controls in order to gain significant market share, that’s where the vulnerabilities will be found! It is not surprising that there are concerns about security.
Let us remember: “the chain is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.“. If we connect equipment whose security is weak to a network, the network can do little to ensure your security, so user awareness is and will continue to be essential to have a secure environment, and that is what we, from Oesíawe intend with each of our articles.
Armando Amado Iaizzo de Iulio