Addressing New Security Challenges with 5G

istock 858526928

Mobile network infrastructures have evolved dramatically over just a few short years. The evolution from 3G to 4G, for example, enabled the mobile infrastructure to deliver new data-centric services to consumer, such as rich multimedia, along with enhanced content capabilities and services.

5G will enhance the power and capacity of mobile networks to better support an end-to-end environment designed to enable our fully mobile and connected society. Typical use cases for 5G include significantly higher capacity and performance to support enhanced broadband access in dense urban areas, higher user mobility, and the expanding Internet of Things in order to deliver extreme real-time communication, highly-reliable lifeline communication, and broadcast-like servicesfor a whole new generation of ultra-rich multimedia.

Advances in virtualization, automation, and orchestration, combined with the new networking power of 5G, will also enable data and transactional decision-making to be moved closer to the edge of the mobile network – the edge cloud. This will allow organizations to redesign their infrastructures to better meet digital transformation demands. Data and compute requests that once traveled back and forth from the core for execution can now beprocessed and executed at the edge. This enables organizations to drastically enhance their ability to scale as well as improve the speed at which decisions and transactions can be completed. With Edge clouds, innovation will no more be constrained by centralized datacenters and public/private clouds.

5G networks are transforming business

The telecommunications industry has already begun to transform its businesses by leveraging these new opportunities at the edge. But they are merely the first. This will be the de facto approach for the next cycle of network computing. 5G connectivity and edge-based computing will enable digital transformation, resulting in exponential improvements in service delivery and productivity for enterprises, and enhanced quality of life and highly customized and personalized experiences for connected consumers and citizens. 5G’s high speed, low latency features also mean "always on" business models can now be implemented without geographic limitations - far from enterprise data centers or cloud platforms. Ultimately, rather than being exclusively tethered to the cloud, hyperconnected devices with edge clouds will become a new uber-cloud where applications, data, and services will operate across a meshed edge.

Because of its enhanced performance, 5G is transforming wireless connectivity from being a supplement to wireline networking and centralized processing, to being an actual wireline—and traditional-style network—replacement. It will support a broad range of new, interconnected network traffic from evolving IoT/IIoT sensors, devices, and connected platforms—from headless sensors to connected cars and across smart cities where different use cases are being blended together into a new, umbrella environment where cyber, physical, and critical infrastructures interconnect directly with human beings. Use cases range from immersive entertainment and gaming experiences to robotics and manufacturing floors, to industrial controls in critical national infrastructure, to such things as transportation, energy grid management, and healthcare. 5G brings in a new era of digital transformation to enterprises and industries that have so far stayed behind.

5G implications for security

With 5G in place, end-to-end innovation—both in terms of technology and the network architecture that supports it—will rapidly transform mobile infrastructure into a platform and catalyst for value creation and service innovation. The "flat" packet-based architecture of 5G potentially increase a mobile infrastructure’s exposure to cyberattacks, especially as they are now part of the end-to-end IP core infrastructure. This expanded attack surface will be comprised of thousands or even millions of interconnected nodes that can be highly susceptible to exploitation and abuse.

Because of these vulnerabilities, along with the transition to edge clouds, end-to-end security from the mobile core to the edge is imperative. This will drive the demand for embedding security features and functions directly into the edge as well, far beyond its typical state of being “bolted on” to the traditional network.

These extended, shifting, and hyperconnected networks require a fabric-based security strategy that goes beyond the isolated security devices and platforms deployed in yesterday’s static networks to cover and adapt to this expanded and evolving network. Achieving this requires protection that is broad, powerful, integrated, and automated—just like the makings of the network it needs to protect.

Broad: Security solutions need to be applied broadly enough to span all network environments and protect all devices.

Powerful: Security needs to be able to keep up with bandwidth growth that is expanding faster than Moore’s law, such as using Fortinet’s Virtual SPU technology for boosting virtual firewall performance. It must extend capabilities beyond legacy stateful firewalls, including deep application security, inspection of encrypted traffic at digital speeds etc.

Integrated: A security architecture needs to correlate data across, and between security layers, whether physical, logical, or virtual, to detect threats anywhere they occur

AutomatedAll security tools need to be able to dynamically respond to detected events as a coordinated system, without having to wait for human intervention.


Organizations cannot afford to wait to build their strategies, they need to begin planning now to ensure they have the technical and human resources in place to support and secure their 5G opportunity, and only a fully coordinated security strategy will be able to protect tomorrow’s highly mobile and dynamic networks, devices, and transactions. Securing the massive amounts of data, networking traffic, and computing resources that 5G brings in will require greater levels of speed and automation than most organizations currently have in place to ensure quality-of-service, expected customer experience, and the adequate protection of data.

Fabric-enabled security platforms not only provide the comprehensive visibility, protection, detection and automated response 5G networks require, they also enable organizations to weave their 5G security strategy back into their larger security framework. This includes the ability to tie mobility, edge cloud, public/private cloud, and traditional security solutions together into a single, seamless, and integrated system that can follow and protect workflows, applications, and services that need to span the network, from mobile device to data center, regardless of where either is located.

Learn more about Fortinet's 5G security solutions.

Learn more about Fortinet's Security Fabric and AI Predictive Intelligence solutions.

Read the 5G Security Survey by Heavy Reading or the "Securing 4G, 5G and Beyond" white paper.


Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.