As next-gen mobile networks provide higher speeds and lower latency, the way we use technology is set to change dramatically. While improved connectivity introduces new challenges and risks, cybersecurity leaders will also have a front-row seat to fascinating developments and opportunities for increased safety and security across devices.
According to a recent Ericsson report, security is fundamental to next-gen mobile networks. Independent security expert Rod Soto, who studies the intricacies of future mobile networks, says the new technology introduces enhanced capabilities—such as improved monitoring and visibility of devices—that may not be feasible today due to bandwidth limitations. “It can also help improve security by applying network slicing and keeping connected devices out of reach of the general internet and unintended parties,” he said.
Chief information officers should be mindful, however, that new mobile technologies do not necessarily solve past security challenges and may indeed introduce a new level of vulnerability if not implemented securely. If organizations approach the next-gen mobile era with risk awareness and smart device management, they can then begin to reap the benefits of stronger, safer networks.
On A Need-To-Know Basis.
For today's CIO, there are several cybersecurity risks to address at the outset. For example, Soto advises that many of the new services about to explode with faster networks may reach deep into customers' private information—thus increasing the likelihood of potential attacks by malicious actors. "This new technology will further blur the line between the company border and the internet," he said. "It is fundamental to implement [next-gen mobile networks] with the mindset of defense and isolation from unintended parties."
To accomplish this, security experts like Soto are bullish about network segmentation, essentially partitioning the network into smaller networks while also restricting access to only those who require it. Any hosts and services containing confidential information should be on their own network and completely unreachable from other networks. Would you want confidential information sitting in the same network as general company data, for instance?
Careful planning and strict enforcement will become more crucial: "More scrutiny and security checks will be needed for any device [on faster mobile networks] that can potentially become an open door within the organization's infrastructure," said Soto. Consider emerging tools like wearables or healthcare telemetry devices—which likely carry a new level of exposure. "These may have real-life consequences on people's well-being."
A Three-Step Head Start.
For the enterprise preparing for faster networks, here are three cybersecurity strategies at the top of Soto's list.
As any new technology requires, you should consider reviewing, retesting and reassuring your current security posture before diving in head first. Revisit those reviews after implementation.
Next, business leaders should explore how devices and services in the next-gen mobile network era might involve a deeper reach into organizations' infrastructure—including access to potentially sensitive information. "It is fundamental to apply principles of least privilege and separation of duties," said Soto. Consider network slicing features and zero trust posture when implementing this technology.
Finally, business leaders should consider the fact that faster networks and more devices lead to increased risk without proper device management. "Any device or infrastructure-related item must be carefully tested and vetted before going into production," said Soto. "Go slow but safe when approaching this new technology."
Great Potential Lies Ahead.
Preparation is a key solution for addressing risks facing business devices in the next-gen era. Companies should consider planning not only for future adoption, but also for potential consequences and exposure from partners and third parties using this technology. Faster networks may provide attackers with wider attack surfaces and more powerful platforms.
Nevertheless, next-gen mobile networks offer extraordinary benefits to companies and consumers if secure implementation is the starting point.
Ultimately, IT departments must understand that emerging security issues in next-gen mobile networks reside at the endpoint—the remote devices that communicate with your network. Properly managing and monitoring these devices through mobile device management software will be crucial.
"If implemented securely, it may help restore confidence in consumers and drive adoption of new services," said Soto. "It might be an inflection point for consumers as to how comfortable they feel with IoTs as they become prevalent at home or everywhere they go. And if that improves, the internet overall will improve as well."
Originally published on Forbes.com.