& cplSiteName &

Network Security: It's Complicated

Michelle Donegan
Prime Reading
Michelle Donegan
4/28/2014
50%
50%

Increasing network complexity, more sophisticated attacks, and a general lack of security awareness among consumers are just some of the challenges that mobile operators face as they work to protect their networks and customers.

That's the view from Håkan Kvarnström, chief security officer at Telia Company , an international operator with 189 million subscribers from operations in 15 Nordic and Baltic countries, Eurasia and Spain, as well as associated companies in Russia, Turkey, and Latvia.


All the major security challenges facing mobile operators will be analyzed and discussed at the one-day Mobile Network Security Strategies event, May 21 at The Thistle Marble Arch hotel in London.


In a recent interview with Light Reading, Kvarnström shared his thoughts on the type of network attack that worries him most and how the threat landscape is changing for mobile network operators, as well as for their customers.

For Kvarnström, the most serious network attack would be one that steals customer data and compromises users' privacy, rather than one that causes a network outage.

"Of course, it's serious if the network goes down, but that's reversible -- we can do something about it," he said, adding that once the network has been restored there is no further damage to the customer. "That's not as far-reaching as losing data."

When a customer's privacy has been violated, the harm has lasting effects. An attacker can track a person's entire life by various means, such as tapping in to location data, gaining access to call records, or even listening to voice traffic and looking into SMS messages.

Don't mess with Hakan Kvarnstrom -- he's head of security...
Don't mess with Håkan Kvarnström -- he's head of security...

It's complicated...
But the biggest threat of all for mobile operators is not a certain kind of network attack, in Kvarnström's view. Rather, it is ever-increasing network complexity.

"Complexity is security's worst enemy and that is what security people are struggling with," he said.

Mobile networks are becoming more complicated as a result of having to support many different devices and technologies, such as 2G, 3G, 4G, and eventually 5G, he explained. Added to that, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications is causing a further proliferation of devices on the network. Overall, the IT environment, and the services a mobile operator provides, are becoming more complex, he said.

While TeliaSonera does what it can on its network to thwart attacks, deter the theft of data, and minimize service disruption, Kvarnström said it's more difficult to protect all customers all the time when they can inadvertently install harmful software onto their devices by downloading free applications.

"On the terminal side, it's a much bigger problem because it involves the behavior of the user," he said. "As long as it's free, they download anything. There is a lack of security awareness of what can happen. We need to help people understand the consequences of their actions."

But Kvarnström has noticed that user perceptions are starting to change. "People are becoming more aware of the risks when it comes to security," he said, adding that this was in part due to the Edward Snowden surveillance revelations.

At the same time, the legislative landscape is also changing as the European Commission is working on a proposal for new privacy rules this year.

Taken together, these changes in user perception and regional legislation add to the security challenge for mobile network operators, because they need to adapt their security strategies. "When the legislatures and users are changing the way they look [at the issue], the pressure on operators is becoming tougher to provide solutions to address the security problem," he said.

Sophisticated attacks
Meanwhile, the attacks on network operators are becoming more sophisticated.

"It's quite easy to become a hacker, but that's not limited to mobile services," said Kvarnström. "And when you can make money by hacking and selling data, that's when the threat increases."

He explained that network operators have been let off the hook somewhat when it comes to hacking, unlike banks, which have long been targets. But now, the pressure on operators is increasing because hackers are turning their attention to network operators and mobile users.

"There are a lot of nice apps and services people use that would be of interest to a hacker," he said.

When asked whether equipment vendors were doing enough to help operators meet their security goals, he said that all the solutions needed are available.

"It's about understanding your problem, having the solutions, and using them," he said simply. "There are no excuses and no big missing pieces."

Kvarnström's comments provide a glimpse into the breadth of the security challenge for mobile operators, which involves protecting not only their networks and services, but also the personal data of their customers, as well as their devices.

That means there's at least one certainty for Kvarnström and his ilk: A chief security officer's work is never done.

— Michelle Donegan, contributing editor, special to Light Reading


Want to learn more about this topic? Check out the agenda for Mobile Network Security Strategies, which will take place on May 21 at The Thistle Marble Arch hotel in London. For more on the event, including the stellar service provider speaker line-up, see the event's official site.


(8)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/10/2014 | 7:13:46 AM
Social Engineering
And this doesn't even begin to touch on the risks of social engineering -- which can sometimes become all the more ever-present in a highly complex environment.  (It's so much easier to just do what someone is telling or asking you to do, isn't it?)
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/30/2014 | 5:39:21 PM
Re: It's all there in this one quote
Hmmm. If that's your answer, then what's your definition of secure? All those can be "broken" easily.
briandnewby
50%
50%
briandnewby,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/30/2014 | 2:15:42 PM
Re: It's all there in this one quote
It is fair at times to ask how things could be worse WITHOUT security.  I do think that many organizations (such as homes associations that require authentication to see a newsletter) provide bottom feeding opportunities to collect user info that can be used in bad ways on bigger sites. 

Less security in some cases might make us more secure overall.
brookseven
50%
50%
brookseven,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/29/2014 | 1:33:17 PM
Re: It's all there in this one quote
Actually, to be completely frank...there is no possibility of perfect security.

I have posted here in the past the story of the Penetration Test done at the DoD by dropping Flash Drives in a parking lot.  People picked up and plugged in about 60% of the drives.  They were innocuous but connected back to report in.  Poof...all network security is bypassed.

So - problem 1 is stupid employees.

Next up is the problem of bribes/payoffs.  If somebody really wants some information, do you think one of your IT technicians might not take $1M for access?  This is why the electronic CALEA standard came about.  The mob was threatening and bribing CO Technicians when wiretaps were enabled.  

So - problem 2 is dishonest employees.

The thing is that you need to think about security, risk and inconvenience all at the same time.  We had custom ASIC files stolen.  Our initial solution was to take all the machines in the ASIC design team off-line.  We had people go through our garbage.  Shred everything...and I do mean everything.

We have been working on physical security for 1,000s of years.  And yet people still rob banks.  Your job in network security is to increase the cost and risk of a breach - knowning that they are impossible to completely stop.

So, write any buzzwords you want...it only means something if the information is not worth as much as the cost to extract it.

seven

 
pdonegan67
50%
50%
pdonegan67,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/29/2014 | 3:26:05 AM
Re: It's all there in this one quote
TDM. ATM. SMS. GPRS. WAP.
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
4/28/2014 | 9:57:26 PM
Re: It's all there in this one quote
That sounds like something written by a security analyst. What's both secure & simple?
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/28/2014 | 6:20:39 PM
Irony
The irony is that the worst enemy of simplicity and accessibility is security.

What's that saying about "the enemy of my enemy"...?  :p
pdonegan67
50%
50%
pdonegan67,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/28/2014 | 1:19:09 PM
It's all there in this one quote
It's all there in this one quote: "Complexity is security's worst enemy and that is what security people are struggling with."
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: The Web-Scale View

1|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Heavy Reading's former chief analyst Patrick Donegan shared insight from the recent web-scale operators report, which featured research on how web-scale operators view the market, the best web-scale companies to ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Cloud Scale Networking: Automation, Virtualization & Simplification

1|18|17   |     |   (1) comment


Cisco's Sanjeev Mervana outlines the latest innovations in networking technology at CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
LRTV Custom TV
ADVA Talks Innovation & the Future of Networking

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ray Le Maistre and Christoph Glingener, CTO of ADVA Optical Networking, discuss the current state of the industry, cooperation and collaboration, open innovation and the future of networking.
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Infinite Video Platform

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Cisco's Infinite Video Platform allows service providers to deliver broadcast-quality video over IP networks. Infinite video supports many devices, from 4K TVs to tablets to game consoles. Join Cisco's Rajeev Raman for a brief tour and live demo.
LRTV Interviews
Masergy: Ability to Adapt Key for NFV

1|16|17   |   6:40   |   (0) comments


Speaking at Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Masergy's VP, Global Technology, Ray Watson, said agility is key to providing the mix and match NFV-based services that are driving business for the managed service provider today.
LRTV Interviews
Equinix: The Data Explosion

1|13|17   |   4:16   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Eric Schwartz, president of EMEA, Equinix, talked about how Equinix is helping its customers manage the influx of data today, and how it's preparing for a future filled with millions of connected IoT devices.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: The Changing Data Center Landscape

1|12|17   |   6:05   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision event in Rome, Heavy Reading's Senior Analyst Roz Roseboro talks about how virtualization is impacting data center evolution and how that evolution is affecting the relationship between service providers, data center operators and public cloud providers.
LRTV Interviews
Boingo: Prepping for Millions of Devices

1|12|17   |   5:07   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Boingo's CTO Derek Peterson discusses how wireless operators will address the needs of low-bandwidth and high-bandwidth apps at the same time, the need for more MHz, the impact of IoT and more.
LRTV Interviews
Comcast Shows Off Gig Gateway at CES

1|11|17   |     |   (1) comment


With its largest presence at CES in years, Comcast took the wraps off its long-awaited gigabit gateway and a new platform for managing the home WiFi network. Light Reading Senior Editor Mari Silbey sat down with EVP Chris Satchell to discuss the latest Comcast advance, and met with VP of Product Strategy and Development Andrea Peiro to walk through a demo of the ...
LRTV Interviews
Colt: End-to-End Key for 2017

1|10|17   |   6:21   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Nico Fischbach of Colt said having a multi-carrier, end-to-end service proposition is going to be key for 2017 -- and SD-WAN is instrumental in making it happen.
From the Founder
Cisco's Clemson on Mobile Cloud Video

1|9|17   |     |   (1) comment


Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators. "If you think about where we're going… whether it's a mobile application, or a video ...
LRTV Custom TV
VMware Telco NFV Solutions – Preparing for 5G & IOT

1|9|17   |     |   (0) comments


Shekar Ayyar, EVP & Corporate Strategy/General Manager of Telco for VMware, discusses VMware's Telco NFV solutions role and foundation for the Imminent Arrival of 5G & IOT.
Upcoming Live Events
March 21-22, 2017, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
A Women in Comms Glossary
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 1/18/2017
Is Cable One Beefing Up for Slaughter?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 1/20/2017
Google Security Lessons for IT
Curtis Franklin, Security Editor, 1/18/2017
TV's Paradox: No HDR Without 4K
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 1/17/2017
Nokia CTO: 2017 Is the Year 5G Gets in the Field
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 1/19/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders chats with Sportlogiq CEO Craig Buntin about sports data analysis.
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.