As Asia’s governments prepare for 5G they shouldn’t forget security

5G security governments
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With transformative mobility and connection speeds, 5G is expected to deliver on promises like we’ve never seen before. While the benefits are notable, as government departments across Asia prepare for 5G connectivity, it’s vital that they evaluate their IT infrastructures for 5G preparedness since existing practices and legacy security solutions will not meet what’s needed to secure 5G.

The advantages of 5G are undeniable — higher data speeds, latency improvements, greater agility, efficiency and openness — meaning that 5G will be a major driver of digital transformation. And for the region’s government departments and their services, this means stronger and faster connectivity that significantly enhances mission readiness and enables new capabilities across many environments — from airports, transport interchanges, port facilities, customs and excise, to public buildings, hospitals and sports stadiums.   

5G’s next-generation wireless technology will ensure these environments can leverage industrial-scale IoT networks with ultra-low latency, mission-critical reliability and a high degree of mobility. But, before agencies begin to revolutionize their ecosystems to take advantage of 5G, they must understand that accompanying the impressive 5G capabilities are elevated cyber risk, expanding threats and vulnerabilities. This makes it more critical than ever for governments in the region to prioritize setting the foundation of a strong security posture early on in their 5G planning or deployments. 

If government departments haven’t yet modernized their networks and cybersecurity solutions, 5G will make it a crucial requirement. 

Legacy Cybersecurity Solutions Won’t Make the Cut

Legacy cybersecurity solutions, which primarily focused on protecting the perimeter, will not be able to defend against a broader and more complex attack surface, greater threat potential and new points of attack, particularly as IoT devices proliferate in a 5G environment and the perimeter disappears. What may have worked in the static, hardware-driven, centralized and on-premises 3G and 4G environments simply won’t work in the new dynamic, software-driven, scalable, decentralized and cloud-based 5G environment.

Real-time visibility: Legacy firewalls lack the visibility needed to prevent cyberattacks targeting 5G networks. Comprehensive protection and context-driven security at scale are key to protecting 5G networks from cyberattacks, requiring granular visibility across all layers and at key locations of the network. With real-time visibility and automated enforcement of traffic interactions, government departments will have the ability to detect and stop cybersecurity threats in real time within that traffic.

Operational complexity: Disparate security tools will not scale and cannot be consistently applied throughout the distributed 5G networks. As IoT devices proliferate and machine-to-machine systems are adopted, along with the increased use of cloud, automating security will be key. Machine learning and automated, cloud-delivered threat intelligence will help the public sector defend against adversaries operating at 5G speeds and prevent known as well as unknown threats in real time across 5G networks on a global scale.

Slice-level securitySecure 5G network slice offers a dedicated end-to-end piece of the network that provides reliability and confidence to use 5G for core mission-critical activities. It helps ensure custom security posture and dynamic security enforcement as demanded by the end use case served by the slice. Context-driven security can be right-sized for specific government department use cases and can accommodate a per-slice or group-slice level, or individual users of the slice. 

Laying the right cybersecurity foundation

As Asia’s governments undergo digital transformation and begin to embrace 5G networks with a specific focus on driving digitization, accelerating IoT adoption to revolutionize connectivity as well as improving productivity and increasing operational efficiencies, prioritizing the deployment of a strong security posture is critical and requires the following the three capabilities that follow.

Zero Trust security: Extending Zero Trust security into 5G with machine learning-powered next-generation physical and virtual firewalls will help protect end-to-end 5G infrastructures across all layers and key locations of the distributed, cloud native, multi-cloud 5G architecture. Segmenting 5G networks for Zero Trust access, an architectural security strategy rooted in the principle of “never trust, always verify,” can also reduce the volume and impact of cyberattacks.

Consistent, granular visibility: Comprehensive protection of public sector 5G infrastructures requires consistent, real-time granular visibility of threats passing through the networks to be able to stop them in real time. Based on sensitivity or criticality level, steps also can be taken to identify and control the level of access granted to each device and user on the network. 

Automated security: Real-time, automated security enforcement at the 5G network level and device level is the only way to outmaneuver threats in this complex environment. Authenticating and automatically identifying the devices and users before granting access to perform a certain action, such as requesting data, are the keys to successful security.

Now is the time to plan for not only 5G but also the technical measures required to mitigate the new cybersecurity risks that will face Asia’s government network infrastructures, applications, services and information, which will rely on 5G networks. 

By John Davis, Vice President of Public Sector, Palo Alto Networks

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