Light Reading

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 TeliaSonera AB (Nasdaq: TLSN), 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."
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Ericsson's Hyperscale Datacenter System (HDS) 8000, featuring Intel's Rack Scale Architecture, caused a stir when it was announced at MWC 2015. For more on this revolutionary product, join me on Thursday, April 30 at 12:00 p.m. EST for a Super Webinar event, A New Hardware Paradigm for the Telco Data Center.
LRTV Documentaries
CableLabs' Clarke Updates Cable Virtualization

4|23|15   |   05:41   |   (1) comment


Former BT exec now leading CableLabs' NFV and SDN efforts explains key role of open source and updates efforts to virtualize the home network.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. II

4|23|15   |   08:19   |   (1) comment


In the second installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about cultural change, network slicing and technology advances.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. I

4|23|15   |   09:27   |   (3) comments


In the first installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about the incredible transformation underway in the communications networking industry.
LRTV Documentaries
LTE Paves the Way for the 5G Revolution

4|20|15   |   4:20   |   (0) comments


Håkan Andersson, head of 5G product strategy of the Radio Business Unit at Ericsson, discusses the role of LTE, the US and other industry verticals in building a true 5G ecosystem.
LRTV Documentaries
The 3GPP's Road to 5G Standardization

4|17|15   |   4:43   |   (0) comments


Satoshi Nagata, chairman of the 3GPP's TSG-RAN group and a manager at NTT Docomo, explains the standardization process for 5G, as well as the biggest challenges and opportunities.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu CTO Makes the Case for a New 5G Air Interface

4|16|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Michael Peeters, CTO of wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, explains why 5G will require a new air interface to meet its diverse performance targets.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu + Nokia: The New Uber-Vendor

4|15|15   |   2:42   |   (4) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown discusses the technological and competitive opportunities and challenges if a merger between Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia comes to pass.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Data Center Power Play

4|15|15   |   6:22   |   (0) comments


Huawei has developed industry-leading energy efficiency capabilities for its indoor and outdoor data center solutions, explains Dr. Fang Liangzhou, vice president of Huawei's Network Energy product Line.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Routers, Switches Get the Green Mark

4|15|15   |   2:02   |   (0) comments


TUV Rheinland's Frank Dudley explains how Huawei's routers and switches have been successfully tested by energy efficiency experts and have gained Green Mark Certification.
LRTV Documentaries
A Finn, a Frenchman & a Guy From New Jersey Walk Into a Merger...

4|15|15   |   3:17   |   (0) comments


Stop us if you've heard this one before... Light Reading CEO Founder & CEO Steve Saunders weighs in on the technical and cultural implications of a Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent merger.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accounting for Better Solutions

4|10|15   |   02:31   |   (1) comment


Murad Yousuf, CTO at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Finance (Dept. of Zakat & Income Tax), talks about the benefits of deploying router technology from Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
What's in Store for Huawei & DataCore?

4|10|15   |   05:44   |   (0) comments


At the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, George Teixeira, CEO of software-defined storage (SDS) specialist DataCore Software, explains why he has just signed a partnership agreement with Huawei Technologies.
Upcoming Live Events
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
In its latest survey covering network operators' plans and strategies for ICT transformation, Heavy Reading asked telecom operators worldwide to identify the most important goals and objectives for their ICT transformation initiatives. Heavy Reading also asked operators about the importance of a "digital first" strategy, which enables customers to complete an interaction across different digital channels, such as web and mobile self-service and social media.
Hot Topics
Comcast Formally Ends Its Bid for TWC
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/24/2015
What if the Comcast Merger Fails?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/20/2015
Google's WiFi-First Mobile Service 'Fi' Is Here
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/22/2015
Adtran Is Developing White Box GPON Tech
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 4/24/2015
Comcast Merger May Hinge on Hulu
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/22/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Many leading communications companies can claim to have undergone significant periods of reinvention during their histories, but none have been through more major ...
Data Center Interconnect, or DCI, is one of the hottest sectors in telecom currently. Since coming back to Light Reading last year, prodigal-son style, I've ...
Cats with Phones
Learning Curve Click Here
Pierre could never remember how to use Excel.
Latest Comment