The emergence of 5G will revolutionize how we connect and interact with the world. However, with the widespread adoption of 5G, concerns surrounding network security have escalated. The future of 5G network security lies in embracing novel security frameworks and adopting proactive measures to counter emerging threats. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of 5G network architecture, its key components, its impact on security and strategies to monitor and mitigate associated risks. 

5G Network Architecture: An Overview

Compared to its predecessors, 5G technology offers superior bandwidth and lower latency, paving the way for transformative possibilities. The 5G network architecture is comprised of three primary components: the radio access network (RAN), the core network, and the transport network. The RAN connects end-user devices to the core network, which in turn delivers voice, video, and data services, while the transport network connects the core network to the internet.

One notable innovation within 5G is virtualization technology, enabling network slicing services. Network slicing allows the division of a physical network into virtual networks with distinct bandwidth, latency, and security parameters. While this enhances network performance, it also introduces new security vulnerabilities.

Securing the 5G Landscape: Unveiling Risks and Monitoring Threats

Figure 1: 5G Network Architecture

Open Radio Access Network (ORAN) and its Impact on 5G Network Security

The concept of the open radio access network (ORAN/OpenRAN) seeks to create a more adaptable and open RAN environment by separating RAN hardware from software. While this approach can reduce capital and operational expenses, it introduces fresh security concerns such as supply chain threats, software vulnerabilities, configuration errors, and access control issues. ORAN's flexibility increases the attack surface, which in turn creates the need for vulnerability assessments and penetration testing. To mitigate security hazards, secure connection methods like security gateway and IPsec should be employed.

Securing the 5G Landscape: Unveiling Risks and Monitoring Threats

Figure 2: 5G Network Architecture with ORAN

Network Slicing Services and Their Impact on 5G Network Security

Network slicing empowers the creation of multiple virtual networks within a physical infrastructure, each tailored with unique characteristics. However, this technology introduces security risks as each virtual network has its own security requirements and vulnerabilities. Implementing a comprehensive security framework involving a security gateway (SecGW), IPsec, DDoS solutions and firewalls is essential to mitigate these risks. Regular security audits are crucial for identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities.

5G Network Signaling, Legacy Technology, and Their Impact on 5G Network Security

As 5G coverage expands worldwide, it relies on legacy technology networks and IP networks to manage existing services. This convergence of technologies compounds security challenges, including common threats such as man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, UDP flooding, TCP SYN attacks, TCP session flooding, and DNS poisoning. Legacy networks like 2G, 3G, and 4G are also susceptible to SS7/diameter protocol threats, SMS-phishing, unauthorized A2P message terminations, network access authentication flaws, and unwarranted static/dynamic subscriber data queries. Employing a comprehensive security framework comprised of signaling security systems, SMS firewalls, and network firewalls is vital to mitigate these risks. Regular security audits and monitoring of network users and signaling traffic can further enhance threat detection and mitigation.

5G Network Security: C-Plane, U-Plane, and M-Plane

The 5G network is divided into three principal planes (layers):

  • The Control Plane (C-Plane) manages mobility network functions, subscriber data management, and signaling networks.
  • The User Plane (U-Plane) handles traffic through elements like UPF, PGW, ISP-GW, routers, and switches.
  • The Management Plane (M-Plane) carries management activities such as system instructions, for NMS, OSS, and RIC operations. These functions are critical in managing the day-to-day functioning of the network.

Each layer has unique security requirements and vulnerabilities, necessitating the implementation of a comprehensive security framework. This framework should encompass firewalls, IPsec, vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and overall monitoring capabilities.

Securing the 5G Landscape: Unveiling Risks and Monitoring Threats

Figure 3: 5G Network Layers

5G Network Security Monitoring Using SIEM, SOAR, and Evolving Existing Security Operations

Security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR), and security information and event management (SIEM) are essential components of any comprehensive security framework. SOAR enables the automation of security operations, while SIEM facilitates the collection, analysis, and monitoring of security events. Ensuring high visibility in network-related security events is vital for incident management so a robust security framework should integrate SIEM and SOAR to effectively monitor and mitigate security risks within the 5G network. Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments aid in identifying and mitigating potential security threats.

Securing the 5G Landscape: Unveiling Risks and Monitoring Threats

Figure 4: 5G Network Threat Landscape and Known Threats

  • Threat Lanscape and Intensity may vary depending upon the architecture
  • The pictures depicts for a generic and ideal network architecture
  • For assessing threat landscape, we must analyze the architecture, connectivitiy and other aspects in the network & IT ecosystems

5G Network Security Services: What to Look For

Selecting a 5G network security solution and service provider requires careful consideration. Look for providers offering a comprehensive security framework that includes vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, security system services, IPsec, and signaling firewalls. Additionally, the provider should conduct regular security audits and network traffic surveillance to detect and mitigate potential security hazards. A vendor-agnostic approach can help you select the most effective security products and procedures.

As 5G network technology and deployment advances, new security threats are introduced, underscoring the importance of maintaining visibility and preparedness in the face of evolving challenges. Embracing new security frameworks and practices to mitigate emerging threats is the future of 5G network security. 

For more information, contact our experts in our Emerging Technologies practice.