Mobile Industry’s Role In Addressing Cybersecurity Challenges And Solutions. – Why 5G Require New Approaches to Cybersecurity Race to Protect the Most Important Network of the 21st Century
Tom Wheeler and Tom Wheeler Visiting Fellow – Management Studies, Center for Technological Innovation @tewheels David Simpson David Simpson Professor – Virginia Tech, Pamplin College of Business, former head of Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau – FCC
Mobile Industry’s Role In Addressing Cybersecurity Challenges And Solutions.
Tom Wheeler recently appeared on the Lawfare Podcast to discuss the cybersecurity of 5G networks with fellow panelist Margaret Taylor. You can listen to the podcast episode here.
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“The race to 5G is on and America must win,” President Donald Trump said in April. For political purposes, that “race” has been defined as which nation builds 5G first. This is an incorrect measurement.
We must “shoot efficiently first” in our 5G deployment. To borrow a philosophy coined by Admiral Arleigh Burke in World War II: Speed is important, but speed without a good targeting solution can be disastrous.1
5G will be a physical overhaul of our critical networks that will have decades of impact. Since 5G is the transition to a mostly all-software network, future updates will be software updates, much like the current updates to your smartphone. Because of the cyber vulnerabilities of software, the more difficult part of the real 5G “race” is to reorganize how we secure the most important network of the 21st century.
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Never before have the essential networks and services that define our lives, our economy, and our national security had so many participants, each dependent on the other—and none of them has ultimate responsibility for cybersecurity. The saying “everybody’s business is nobody’s business” has never been more appropriate—and dangerous—than in the pursuit of 5G cybersecurity.
“However, as we address the connected future, we must place an equal, if not greater, focus on the security of those connections, devices and applications.”
The new capabilities enabled by new applications driving 5G networks hold enormous promise. However, as we address the connected future, we must place an equal—if not greater—focus on the security of those connections, devices, and applications. Building 5G on top of a weak cybersecurity foundation is building on sand. This is not only a matter of safety of Internet users, it is a matter of national security.
Mobile Device Security
Effective progress toward achieving minimally satisfactory 5G cyber risk outcomes is jeopardized by a hyperfocus on legitimate concerns about Huawei equipment on US networks. While the Trump administration has continued an Obama-era priority of keeping Huawei and ZTE out of home networks, that’s just one of many key 5G risk factors. The hyperbolic rhetoric surrounding the Chinese equipment problems is stifling what should be a strong national focus on the full range of cybersecurity risk factors facing 5G.
The purpose of this article is to move beyond the Huawei infrastructure problem to review some of the issues that masked the Huawei madness. Policymakers need to conduct a more balanced risk assessment, with a broader focus on vulnerabilities, threat probabilities and impact drivers of the cyber risk equation. This must be followed by an honest assessment of the oversight needed to ensure that the promise of 5G is not defeated by cyber vulnerabilities arising from rapid deployments that do not invest enough in cyber risk mitigation.
Such a review of 5G cyber threat mitigation should focus on the responsibilities of both 5G enterprises and the government. This should include a review of whether current market-based measures and incentives can address 5G cyber risk factors and where they fall short, the appropriate role of targeted government intervention in an era of rapid technological change. The time to address these issues is now, before we become dependent on insecure 5G services without a plan for how we move forward with cyber readiness for the larger 5G ecosystem.
Protecting Your Business To Face Cybersecurity Challenges
The after-the-fact cost of missing a proactive 5G cybersecurity opportunity will be far greater than the cost of cyber-warrior up front. The NotPetya attack in 2017 caused $10 billion in corporate losses. The combined losses at Merck, Maersk and FedEx alone exceeded $1 billion. Of course, 5G networks did not exist at the time, but the attack illustrates the high cost of such incursions, and it pales in comparison to an attack that would result in human injury or loss of life. We need to establish the conditions under which risk-informed cybersecurity investment is smart business upfront for all 5G participants.
China is a threat even when there is no Huawei equipment in our networks. From the successful search of highly sensitive security clearance data in the Office of Personnel Management breach commonly attributed to China, to the ongoing China-linked threat campaign against managed service providers, many of China’s most successful attacks have exploited vulnerabilities in non-Chinese applications. and hardware and poor cyber hygiene. None of this goes away with the Huawei ban. We cannot allow the headline focus on Chinese networking equipment to lull us into a false sense of cyber security. In a world of interconnected networks, devices and applications, every activity is a potential attack vector. This vulnerability is only increased by the nature of 5G and its highly desirable properties. The world’s hackers (good and bad) are already turning to the 5G ecosystem, as the recently concluded DEFCON 2019 (the annual ethical “Hacker Olympics”) illustrated. The targets of this year’s hacker villages included key parts of the 5G ecosystem such as: aerospace, automotive, infrastructure control systems, privacy, retail call centers and support services, hardware in general, drones, IoT and voting machines.
Fifth generation networks therefore create a very extensive, multidimensional cyber attack vulnerability. It is this redefined nature of networks—a new network “ecosystem of ecosystems”—that calls for a similarly redefined cyber strategy. The network, device and application companies are aware of the vulnerabilities and many are no doubt making efforts to fix the problems in what they believe to be good faith efforts. The purpose of this article is to present a basic set of steps for cyber adequacy. It is our affirmation that “what brought us here will not take us there.”
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Employees are seen at the Security Operations Center for Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, which is used to monitor, detect and respond to security incidents, including cyber attacks, during a media event in central Sydney, Australia, on August 24, 2017 .REUTERS /Tom Westbrook – RTS1D3F6
5G service providers are the first to tell us that 5G will support a radical and beneficial transformation in what we can do and how we run our businesses. At the same time, these companies have become publicly concerned about their ability to deal with the entirety of the cyber threat and described the future challenge in disturbingly blunt terms. The president’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) — made up of leaders in the telecommunications industry — told him in November, “The cybersecurity threat now poses an existential threat to the [n]ation’s future.”
The nature of 5G networks exacerbates the cybersecurity threat. Across the country, consumers, companies and cities looking to use 5G are ill-equipped to assess, let alone face, its threats. Placing the security burden on the user is an unrealistic expectation, but it is an important principle of current cyber security activities. Looking at the cybersecurity roles of the multitude of companies in the 5G “ecosystem of ecosystems” reveals an undefined moss. Our current trajectory will not close the cyber gap because 5G greatly increases both the number of connected devices and the categories of activities that rely on 5G. This general dissonance is further exacerbated by positioning Chinese technological infection of US critical infrastructure as the key cyber challenge before us. The truth is that it is only one of many.
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5G has challenged our traditional assumptions about network security and the security of the devices and applications that connect to that network. As officials of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the authors struggled to address these challenges only to be confronted by:
At the same time, those who know the networks best – the network operators – exist under business structures that are not optimal for effective risk reduction. As an FCC white paper concluded three years ago:
As private actors, ISPs (network service providers, such as 5G networks) operate in economic environments that push against investments that do not contribute to profit. Protective actions taken by one ISP may be undermined by the failure of other ISPs to take similar action. This weakens the incentive for all ISPs to invest in such protections. Cyber liability therefore requires a combination of market-based incentives and appropriate regulatory oversight where the market cannot or will not do the job effectively.
United States Cybersecurity Laws & Regulations
The FCC report’s finding — that market forces alone will not address the community’s cyber risk interests — highlighted the ISPs over which the agency had primary jurisdiction. The report further explored the larger ecosystem and concluded that motivation to solve the problem generally worsens when consumers do not link a purchase decision to a cyber risk outcome. Unfortunately, this happens all too often because service providers and device and application vendors do not publish meaningful security differentiators and do not compete on any verifiable security indicators.
“None of this suggests that we should suspend the march to the benefits of 5G. It
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