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
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
Networks of the future will rely on "white box" switches and servers rather than proprietary hardware and that's going to alter the shape of the communications industry. Who says so? John Chambers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
eLTE Rapid Meets the Need for Speed

3|26|15   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


Designed especially for emergency and dedicated ad hoc local mobile communications coverage, Huawei's eLTE Rapid solution can deliver trunked voice, video and data coverage for multiple users over a 6km range and be set up in just 15 minutes, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
On Videos: Challenges & Opportunities

3|26|15   |   5:56   |   (0) comments


Most everything is now connected. And along with 4K and 4G technologies, everyone could be creating and broadcasting video contents. Users are expecting better video experience with any screen, anywhere and anytime. Operators will meet new challenges, but also see some big opportunities.
LRTV Custom TV
JDSU: Delivering Dynamic Networks for a Personalized Experience

3|26|15   |   5:59   |   (0) comments


Light Reading speaks to JDSU at Mobile World Congress 2015 about new solutions in the areas of HetNets, VoLTE, backhaul, virtualization, big data analytics, and real-time intelligence.
LRTV Custom TV
Smarter Service Chaining & New Ways to Benefit From Qosmos Technology

3|25|15   |   03:11   |   (0) comments


David Le Goff, director of strategic and product marketing at Qosmos, explains how the company has added application awareness to subscriber information to make service chaining more efficient and reduce costs for networking and infrastructure. In addition, Qosmos technology, which has been delivered as C libraries, is now also available as a virtual machine, ...
Between the CEOs
Qosmos CEO: The Changing Face of DPI

3|24|15   |   13:53   |   (0) comments


LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures. Also, how the comms market is becoming more like the automotive industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FC Schalke Scores With Its Agile Stadium

3|24|15   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


Top German soccer club FC Schalke 04 has deployed a new, agile WiFi network from Huawei in its Veltins-Arena stadium and is reaping the benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and business opportunities, explains marketing chief Alexander Jobst.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Insights on Mobile Video

3|24|15   |   7:51   |   (0) comments


More people than ever are now watching videos on smartphones. Seventy percent of mobile traffic will be video traffic until 2018. In this video, Huawei's exports give their insights on mobile video in terms of business model, network planning and 4G network construction.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Industry 4.0

3|24|15   |   02:26   |   (8) comments


Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution? It's a big deal for influential operators such as Deutsche Telekom.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Getting Connected With eLTE

3|23|15   |   06:04   |   (0) comments


Trunked radio communications have entered the 4G LTE world, and with Huawei's eLTE solution, can now deliver a full range of data and video services as well as push-to-talk voice, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Funkwerk’s on Track With Huawei

3|19|15   |   3:23   |   (0) comments


GSM-R technology specialist Funkwerk and Huawei have forged a partnership that is benefiting both parties, notes Funkwerk's Gottfried Winter.
LRTV Documentaries
How EANTC Tested Cisco's Virtualization Solutions

3|18|15   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


Carsten Rossenhövel, managing director of independent test lab EANTC, tells Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the innovative approach his team had to take when validating Cisco's service provider virtualization and cloud solutions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Converged Communications: Working Simply & Smartly

3|17|15   |   03.24   |   (0) comments


Edwin Diender, CTO of Huawei's Enterprise Switch & Communications division, outlines the four main pillars of Huawei's unified communications portfolio and explains how the addition of 4K video capabilities has helped Huawei develop a groundbreaking videoconferencing solution.
Upcoming Live Events
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 5, 2015, Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
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
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Women in Tech Coming Into Focus
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/20/2015
Will Open Source Groups Keep Windows Open?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/20/2015
Google Hires Wall Street's Most Influential Woman as CFO
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 3/24/2015
The Rise of Industry 4.0
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 3/24/2015
Net Neutrality Suits: Only The Beginning?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 3/24/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures.
Chattanooga’s EPB publicly owned utility comms company has become a poster child for how to enable a local economy using next-gen networking technology. Steve Saunders, Founder of Light Reading, sits down with Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, to learn how EPB is bringing big time tech to small town America.
Cats with Phones
More Is More Click Here
T-Mobile's Buy One Get One Free deal was too much for Fluffy to pass up. He decided more was more.
Latest Comment