IP networks "inherently less secure"

We may have come far when it comes to performance in telecoms networks but Juniper Networks claims the move from fixed connections to IP has brought more security challenges

We may have come far when it comes to performance in telecoms networks but Juniper Networks claims the move from fixed connections to IP has brought more security challenges.

IP networks may be the standard for service providers the world over, but security has been sacrificed due to the technology shift.

This was the belief of Paul Obsitnik, vice-president of service provider marketing at Juniper Networks.

“IP networks are coming in, especially on the mobile side, and driving connectivity across the board,” he said during an interview at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “But, although there were a lot of negatives of how we built the old telco networks, the one thing that was a big positive was they were very secure. Now with IP, it is becoming a major issue.”

Obsitnik said the rise of LTE networks – which bring  voice and data on to IP networks – and the increase of mobile usage in our everyday lives, makes the packet-based networks more of a target. However, it is also less secure from a technological standpoint.

“IP is inherently less secure because it is packet based,” he said. “With a connection, you could couldn’t really break into it but with packets you can. Packets are a lot more powerful, a lot more flexible but because of that it means they are a lot more hackable and you have to be a lot more careful.”

“It is just a fundamental aspect of a packet network, because when you have a fixed-circuit network, it is point A to point B and that’s it.”

However, even with these additional concerns, there is no question in Obsitnik’s mind that the huge increase in performance outweighs the risks and the amount of solution available to mitigate them is ever increasing.

“There is more awareness and tools for service providers to really understand the need to lock it down,” he said. “I think there is more potential but there is also a focus and emphasis. Before service providers didn’t have to worry about it, but now there has been a shift in mindset and they have to think about security and what it means.”

The only issue is the cost. Obsitnik said both the US and Europe had a range of attitudes towards security, but explained the stark contrast he saw between two providers this side of the Atlantic.

“There was one service provider I was talking to and they were insistent that they needed to lock down, and security on their IP network, which is hackable, was paramount,” he said. “Then I had another one, I’m not going to name names, but they said they had got to look at the cost and whether they pushed security out all the way to the small cell.”

“There is a cost element and a very real cost element. Service providers are inundated with a ton of traffic and they can’t always monetise it, so they have to look at how can they best balance meeting the growth but doing it cost effectively.”

The executive warned that the damage of a hack can go further than needing to revamp the network.

“Service providers’ number one asset is not the network – that is probably number two – but instead it is their brand,” said Obsitnik. “A hack or stealing of data hits the brand squarely.”

He concluded: “I do firmly think every service provider is going to be looking at security in coming years. Security with the user and their handset, security where your network hits the internet and security where your network is peering with another network. Those are the three critical points and if you are not looking at them, you open yourself up to risk.”

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