A majority of operators quizzed by Nokia have warned they need to up their game when it comes to defending 5G networks against hackers.
The Finnish kit maker, in partnership with UK-based consultancy GlobalData, surveyed 50 CSPs from all over the world, and found that around three quarters of them have experienced as many as six security breaches in the past year, resulting in regulatory liability, fraud and theft, and network service outages. T-Mobile US and Optus spring immediately to mind.
While the deployment of cloud-native 5G standalone (SA) brings with it new security standards, it also comes with new attack vectors, Nokia said, as telcos disaggregate their infrastructure, and a growing number of enterprises connect mission critical assets to mobile networks.
As a result, the CSPs surveyed by Nokia generally contend that 5G SA will leave them more vulnerable, not less, with 56 percent saying they need to “substantially improve” their cybersecurity capabilities in order to defend against telecom specific attacks. 68 percent said they need to improve their ransomware defences.
“The substantial changes taking place in the 5G ecosystem are bringing both new dimensions to the telecom threat landscape and opportunities for malicious actors to take advantage of network security vulnerabilities,” said Vishal Sahay, head of managed security services, cloud and cognitive services at Nokia, in a statement on Tuesday. “The findings we’ve announced today reinforce the critical need for CSPs and enterprises to step up their cyber protection practices and to rethink the tools and processes they are using in order to transform and strengthen their security capabilities.”
Improvements need to come in the form of greater automation, and more responsive and interoperable security tools, the telcos said.
“Our survey shows that CSP security staff are doing as much as they can with the people and tools they have. But as CSP services multiply, vulnerabilities will also increase unless they can automate more of their security processes,” said Andy Hicks, principal analyst at GlobalData.
Tuesday’s survey comes not long after Microsoft published its latest annual Digital Defence Report, which lays bare the scale of the task when it comes to telcos defending against cyber attacks, especially state-sponsored attacks.
“During the past year, cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure jumped from comprising 20 percent of all nation-state attacks Microsoft detected to 40 percent,” said Tom Burt, corporate vice president, customer security and trust, Microsoft, in a blog post earlier this month. “This spike was due, in large part, to Russia’s goal of damaging Ukrainian infrastructure, and aggressive espionage targeting of Ukraine’s allies, including the United States.”
Russia isn’t the only perpetrator, Burt said. Iran, North Korea and China have also upped their respective games in the last 12 months.
Microsoft sends what it calls ‘nation state notifications’ (NSNs) to clients when they have been targeted or compromised by government-backed hackers. Since it started doing this in 2018, Microsoft has delivered more than 67,000 NSNs.
And despite the growing threats detailed by both Nokia and Microsoft, a lot of large organisations still aren’t doing enough to protect themselves.
“The average enterprise has 3,500 connected devices that are not protected by basic endpoint protections, and attackers take advantage,” noted Burt. “The biggest thing people can do is pay attention to the basics – enabling multi-factor authentication, applying security patches, being intentional about who has privileged access to systems, and deploying modern security solutions from any leading provider.”
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