UK testbeds and 5GIC publish 5G security report
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:

A report that has been produced by three of the UK’s 5G Testbed and Trials programme’s six 5G testbeds and the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre has made a number of security recommendations that if acted upon could help protect the UK’s future vital infrastructure.

The authors believe the UK needs to innovate to create a new way to predict and pre-validate 5G network connections, leveraging mobile AI based autonomous network technologies – from mobile phones and smart industrial machines, to health monitoring devices and smart home consumer devices. The networks need to quickly and efficiently recognise these devices and confirm that they are secure without compromising user experience and performance. The paper also recommends:

  • a cross-layered process that will allow end-to-end security for critical services such as the transport and logistics, health and social care, industry 4.0 and rural connectivity solutions
  • An organisation that is tasked to help monitor and encourage good security-by-design practice, and set out and document an approach to designing secure 5G networks, applications and services
  • further testing of standards and security capability using existing UK test beds.

The report also states that “Risk assessments against a set of criteria/principles must be performed ahead of the roll-out of key 5G milestones, such as a 3GPP Release 16 compliant system. This will help determine next steps and strategies for each risk factor. Based on the findings from trials and tests, advice for businesses and operators investing in DevOps or application development on how to approach risk decisions could follow, further improving system security. Furthermore, by providing advice, operators and administrators would be providing a description of the lowest-bar of entry on the network. This would not only assist operators in ensuring some basic security controls are in place but also aid 5G network monitoring for ‘non-conformist’ or ‘mischievous’ deployed software.”

The three testbeds that contributed to the report are AutoAir, which is testing transport use cases; 5G RuralFirst, which is testing the use of 5G to enhance rural communities, and the Worcestershire 5G Testbed, which is testing industrial use cases of 5G.

Regius professor Rahim Tafazolli, founding director of the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, said: “We are expecting the first 5G enabled services to come to market next year and we are already doing significant work across the UK test beds – the benefits of being prepared for what 5G offers are clear for all to see.”

“Performance risk in such a complex network means that we need to reconsider many of our digital security processes. We believe that with the sound recommendations made in this paper, the UK will be in a good position to continue our leadership position in 5G innovation, development and deployment.”

Peter Claydon, AutoAir project director, said: “Since the age of 2G, mobile networks have been some of the most secure things on the planet, helped by the fact that each one is controlled by a single network operator. 5G opens up mobile networks, allowing network operators to provide ‘slices’ of their networks to customers. Also, customers’ data can be offloaded and processed at the edge of the network, without going through the secure network core. This report is a timely reminder of the security challenges that these new features raise.”

The full report can be viewed here


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