Network evolution has an impact on almost every aspect of the communications business market, as new, powerful networks make life easier and more productive for billions of people across the globe. But a global communications system means global risks, with operators and users alike exposed to cybercrime and a host of other security risks.
An increased reliance on internet-based communications means risks will grow enormously in the coming years, and consumers will need to be even more careful with their private information. Network operators and service providers must adapt to a continuously changing risk landscape, and vendors must provide appropriate security in their products, solutions and services.
There is a somewhat dated perception that traditional telecommunications networks are relatively secure. The move to IP-based networking has directly challenged this, as the openness of the internet has inevitably led to abuse across the spectrum.
The most obvious problems are direct attacks on networks themselves. Security mechanisms for IP-based networks do exist, but are constantly challenged and attacked. So, while more open telecommunications architecture may seem to require less investment due to higher equipment production volumes and lower operating costs, security management costs are rising.
There are also growing security concerns in the user terminal space. Consumers have access to more capacity at a lower cost, which means that an increasing amount of data traffic needs to be kept under control. The complexity and adaptive-nature of malicious content increases as terminal capability grows. Furthermore, the public has greater access, with walled gardens giving way to application stores, which are often less controlled and thus more challenging from a security perspective.
At the same time, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication subscriptions are expected to increase exponentially over the next few years, and serious attempts to misuse connected devices are already emerging.
The list of security problems is long. It is not always clear which security threats are relevant to which services. Hackers are less likely to get caught, as geographical boundaries vanish and physical distance becomes irrelevant. Any loss or leaking of identifiable and sensitive enterprise and subscriber data will negatively impact brand image and trust, and companies may even be liable for breaching data protection laws as a result.
As network evolution embraces open technology, the misuse of telecommunication networks becomes easier and more attractive. Legitimate users are being exposed to new risks. The motivations for misuse are countless and the financial impact for operators, users and other stakeholders may be substantial. Both organizations and individuals can be directly attacked or become collateral damage in an attack on other parties.
Telecommunication solutions are diverse and their threat environments differ. Protection mechanisms need to match the diversity.