Verizon advances 5G network security

US comms provider Verizon reveals details of efforts to future-proof next-generation network by developing solutions for possible security threats

Communications giant Verizon has revealed that a series of trials carried out by its network security engineers have proven successful in protecting its 5G infrastructure against security threats and in advancing security measures to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of Verizon’s 5G network.

Even as it noted that the advent of 5G wireless communications constitutes a new era of network connectivity that will revolutionise many aspects of commerce and our personal lives, the operator said that along with new technology comes the need for new security measures.

“As the design and deployment of networks becomes more complicated and the capabilities of networks allow for much more robust systems, securing those networks is the highest priority,” said Srini Kalapala, vice-president of network planning for Verizon. 

“Not only has our network team built our 5G network with industry-leading security, but our team is anticipating and planning for future security issues to protect our network and mitigate risks today and in the future.”

To that end, Verizon engineers and partners are said to be advancing the following initiatives: security network accelerators to improve latency and operational efficiency; artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) security; confidentiality and integrity of data at the network’s core; secure credentialing management system (SCMS) for connected vehicles.

Regarding the former, Verizon observed that as network operations become more complex, additional purpose-built hardware supporting security functions such as firewalls, IDS, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack prevention, probes and packet brokers are being deployed throughout the network. 

Verizon sees the addition of this hardware as introducing additional latency and opening the door for greater maintenance, as well as additional points of vulnerability.

Verizon claims that they have solved these issues by engineers virtualising many of these functions and moving them to the cloud.

For higher performance security functions, Verizon engineers are also working to install programmable network accelerators as a way to mesh together multiple high-performance, latency-dependent security functions into a single AI/ML-driven network accelerator. The result of this is said to be reducing operational expenses, reducing reliance on programming by people and increasing the efficiency of delivering these security functions. 

With the acceleration in use of artificial intelligence and machine learning throughout networks – a technology that automates decision-making, troubleshooting, forecasting and network management, and security – Verizon engineers are developing an AI/ML security framework designed to offer additional protection in the AI/ML models that power the network.

The framework will help verify the providence of information being fed into AI/ML algorithms and aim to ensure that the models are operating correctly, and will manage the security around where that information goes and how it is interpreted and used.

Verizon engineers are trailing the framework in two AI/ML use cases at present – one to detect security anomalies in the network, and the other to analyse MIMO antenna performance at cell tower. Verizon is working with the University of California Santa Barbara to develop AI/ML-driven firewall and IDS capabilities that are able to be delivered in a whitebox network accelerator.

Looking at SCMS, the new technology provides digitally signed certificates and activation codes that are used to validate vehicle safety messages. For what is claimed to be the first time in the connected vehicle industry, a joint Verizon and LG team effort validated and secured CV2X Basic Safety Messages (BSMs) using a standards-compliant SCMS hosted on a Verizon 5G MEC. 

This milestone was designed to validate Verizon’s core capabilities in 5G network connectivity and demonstrate how 5G MEC can be used for public safety and connected vehicle security.

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