& 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."
From The Founder
The independent evaluation of Nokia's key virtual network functions (VNFs) was a defining moment for the Finnish giant.
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 Custom TV
Energy 2020: Growing Services, Not Consumption

6|24|16   |   07:18   |   (0) comments


Management of power requirements needs to be a key consideration as cable operators deploy new services, says Dan Cooper, vice president of critical infrastructure for Charter Communications and chair of the SCTE/ISBE Standards Program's Energy Management Subcommittee. In this video, Cooper discusses the importance of cable operators and technology partners ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei & TDC First to Launch DOCSIS 3.1 Trial in Europe

6|24|16   |     |   (0) comments


To meet the rising demands for high-speed broadband and to tackle fierce competition for 1.5 million household, TDC wanted to upgrade its network to use the latest technology. Using Huawei's DOCSIS 3.1 solution, TDC is now able to offer gigabit speeds to its customers.
LRTV Documentaries
OPNFV Summit: Key Takeaways

6|22|16   |   03:28   |   (0) comments


MANO shortfalls, an increasingly bloated open source ecosystem and the cultural challenges for network operators were among the key takeaways from the OPNFV Summit in Berlin.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Bringing Ultra Broadband to the South Pacific

6|22|16   |   7:55   |   (0) comments


At Singapore's UBBS 2016 summit, Light Reading speaks to Lim Chee Siong, Huawei's CMO in the South Pacific Region.
LRTV Custom TV
Juniper's NFV Platform

6|22|16   |     |   (0) comments


A telco cloud is a key enabler for service providers to deliver virtualized services to their customers. Juniper has a differentiated approach with an open and comprehensive NFV platform to build the cloud of the future for multiple use cases.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Infinera: The Glass Ceiling's Been Broken

6|22|16   |   4:34   |   (0) comments


Shannon Williams, an engineer by trade and now the director of sales for Infinera's major accounts, draws confidence from being a female in a male-dominated industry and hopes other women will too as industry dynamics swing in our favor.
LRTV Custom TV
RAD Demonstrates SD-WAN Functionality at BCE 2016

6|22|16   |     |   (0) comments


In conjunction with Versa Networks, RAD demos a joint solution for SD-WAN implementation. The solution uses RAD's ETX-2i, a vCPE platform integrating a powerful IP and Carrier Ethernet NID/NTU with a field-pluggable x86 NFV module that runs Versa's FlexVNF for SD-WAN functionality. The demo implements SD-WAN over a simulated service provider footprint by deploying ...
LRTV Custom TV
Radware on Virtualizing Network Security

6|21|16   |     |   (0) comments


Radware's Michael O'Malley highlights the benefits for service providers of virtualizing network security.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei 2016 UBBS World Tour: Singapore

6|21|16   |   02:39   |   (0) comments


Highlights from Huawei's UBBS World Tour event in Singapore.
LRTV Custom TV
The FlowBROKER Solution

6|21|16   |     |   (0) comments


During a demo at the Big Communications Event 2016, Accedian director of product line solutions Greg Spear demonstrates how the FlowBROKER distributed packet capture solution (part of Accedian's SkyLIGHT platform) can be used to troubleshoot and resolve QoE issues.

FlowBROKER is the industry's first lossless remote packet capture solution, which uses ...

LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2016: Dell & the New World Order

6|21|16   |   22:48   |   (0) comments


Dell's Jim Ganthier on how the very essence of enterprise is being affected by digital disruption – and how the cloud can help companies find a path forward.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2016: The CSP of the Future

6|20|16   |     |   (0) comments


Traditional telecom operators have been adopting new ways of doing business from the IT sector and emulating web-scale companies in their technology adoption. Are these strategies succeeding? A panel of experts at BCE considered the evidence...
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 6-8, 2016,
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
Hot Topics
FCC to Vote on 5G Spectrum on July 14
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 6/20/2016
'Brexit' Vote Hits BT, Vodafone
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/24/2016
Twitter Buys Magic Pony... Not That Kind
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/20/2016
AT&T Settles on LTE for Cellular IoT
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 6/22/2016
Google Fiber Buys Webpass in Wireless Play
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/23/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
At the BCE 2016 show in Austin, ECI Telecom CEO Darryl Edwards tells Light Reading founder and CEO about the Elastic Network concept and the company's NFV and cybersecurity developments.
Mark Dzuban, president and CEO of SCTE/ISBE, sits down with Steve Saunders in Light Reading's New York office to discuss the society's Energy 2020 campaign, including its mission to benefit the environment, enable economic benefits and the key challenges facing cable operators wanting to reduce energy consumption.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.