As an important part of “new infrastructure”, 5G networks will provide new opportunities for the development of smart cities, Internet of Vehicles, smart agriculture and smart healthcare. As of February this year, China’s three major mobile operators have put into use about 156,000 5G base stations; by the end of this year, 600,000 base stations are planned to be built, of which 550,000 will be put into use.

The rapid deployment of 5G base stations has made a significant contribution to China’s fight against the epidemic. 5G cameras can monitor body temperature in crowded areas, such as airports, train stations, shopping malls and wet markets. In the long run, 5G facilities will also play an important role in reducing the negative impact of the epidemic on the economy and promoting sustainable growth.

Coincidentally, Southeast Asia is also keen to use 5G as a digital platform to achieve leapfrog development. Thai researchers are already deploying 5G robots on the front lines of the fight against the outbreak, caring for infected patients and screening potential cases, while the Singaporean government has pledged S$40 million to build an open, inclusive 5G ecosystem for offshore operations and city traffic.

The 5G ecosystem is made up of various players, including mobile operators, cloud providers, managed security service providers, enterprises and technology partners, to provide services through competition and cooperation.

While a mobile network operator’s priority is to deliver the core elements of 5G network infrastructure, true digital transformation requires partnerships with all industry stakeholders in the 5G use case value chain.

Key players in commercial and mission-critical industries, regulators, and policy makers in national and local governments will all play their part in turning the vision of 5G use cases into reality.

Adoption of 5G introduces new cyber risks

Behind the promise of 5G, however, is constant vigilance. The adoption of 5G exposes the entire service provider ecosystem to greater risk of cyber-attacks. As consumers and businesses increasingly rely on digital services, security concerns need to be considered before adopting 5G.

5G networks rely more on cloud and edge computing, creating a highly distributed environment across multi-provider and multi-cloud infrastructure.

This complexity is exacerbated by the explosion of IoT and the gradual transition of workloads to the cloud. According to a 2019 Gartner report, “By the end of 2019, 4.8 billion IoT end devices are expected to be in use, an increase of 21.5% over 2018.” The Internet of Things (IoT) has opened up innovation and services across industries , but also brings new cybersecurity risks. To assess the IoT threat landscape, Palo Alto Networks Threat Intelligence Team Unit 42 used Palo Alto Networks IoT security product Zingbox® to monitor thousands of physical locations across U.S. enterprise IT departments and healthcare organizations of 1.2 million IoT devices were monitored and security incidents detected in 2018-2019 were analyzed. As a result, the overall security posture of IoT devices is declining, and businesses are vulnerable to new types of IoT-targeting malware as well as legacy technologies long forgotten by IT teams.

Criminals are continually introducing and updating attack tools, using automation, exploit kits, and cloud technologies to attack mobile operators’ network infrastructure, applications, and services, as well as the operator’s customers/end users (consumers and businesses). Risks and potential harm are relevant not only to the telecommunications industry, but to all industries that are closely linked and interdependent with the telecommunications industry, including energy, finance, healthcare, transportation, IT, government, manufacturing and retail. This risk will grow exponentially as 5G networks scale. 5G networks can greatly increase network capacity and speed, enabling more devices to use high-speed connection services and enabling mobile services at an unprecedented scale. However, this also creates more opportunities for attack. Additionally, any emerging threats will pose a threat to the entire ecosystem, including critical infrastructure or services such as power, manufacturing, utilities and other industry sectors connected via 5G. In short, the security of applications and services on 5G networks is as critical as the network infrastructure itself.

While a plethora of new services are likely to emerge in the future, a hyper-connected environment will bring more new security vulnerabilities and threat vectors. This will increase the number of potential intrusion points and create greater security risks for service providers, businesses and consumers. Enterprises will be looking for 5G networks that focus on security design so that new applications and IoT services can be deployed with confidence to maximize the business value of 5G. While digital transformation is well underway, addressing security concerns is urgent.

Therefore, any intelligent connection must have intelligent security, and the 5G transformation also needs to focus on the following three key areas:

Securing 5G-Ready Telecom Clouds

As you prepare for your network transition by building a 5G-ready telco cloud, you need to deploy a resilient network with the proper security features to support a wide variety of 5G applications and services.

Next Generation Managed Security Services

Managed security service providers need a new way to build innovative and agile managed security services to generate new revenue streams.

Securing LTE / 5G Private Networks

As industries embrace LTE/5G private networks to drive digital transformation, cybersecurity is increasingly important to protect the entire connected environment.

As key enablers of the 5G value chain, mobile network operators are in a unique position to connect and secure the 5G digital economy and public safety. Palo Alto Networks, a global leader in cybersecurity, is committed to driving successful industry transformation and accelerating the development of 5G applications and the Internet of Things.

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