Setting new SECURITY standards for private cellular networks | OneLayer

As the manufacturing sector modernizes, facilities are increasingly reliant on IoT and connected devices. But, what are the security risks and challenges of private cellular networks for Industry 4.0? What are the differences from a security perspective between enterprise IP and private cellular networks? So, what should we do for a better tomorrow? What is the solution?

As the manufacturing sector modernizes, facilities increasingly rely on IoT and connected devices. The number of these devices, from sensors to robots to automated machinery, is growing rapidly, increasing business productivity, producing valuable data, and saving on costs. But there are new security risks as well, especially as more manufacturing companies turn to private cellular networks to more effectively run smart and connected factories.

Private cellular – the industry 4.0 enabler

Naturally, the addition of so many devices in such close physical proximity has required additional bandwidth for digital communications. Standard IT networks, including Wi-Fi, are no longer sufficient on their own when there are so many more endpoints that demand connectivity, especially when it comes to moving devices, remote and autonomous machines, analytic needs, and more. Fortunately, private LTE/5G technology has adapted well to addressing these growing connectivity needs. This exciting and affordable technology is enabling the next generation of connectivity that the transition to industry 4.0 demands.

Security challenges …and opportunities

Not only does this technology provide us with the ability to support these emerging technological needs, but it also introduces us to a new era of network ownership. Private cellular networks ensure that only those who possess the enterprise SIM card will be able to receive service and use the network’s applications and thus providing better security and ownership than other alternatives. Yet, it is false to assume that these new private networks are sufficiently protected and secure. As more critical devices from the manufacturing sector transition to this new type of network, they will become more valuable targets for hacking and other malicious activities.

This is mainly due to an enhanced attack surface, as new cellular networks, Wi-Fi, and devices are increasingly linked and working together. It is true that private cellular networks have the ingredients to be more inherently secure than their established alternatives. The better encryption on LTE/5G networks along with the fact that each device must have a SIM adds some protection capabilities. But some of the key security features that we got accustomed to in the classic IP environments are yet to make an appearance in the LTE/5G domain.

Enterprise IP vs. private cellular networks

The classic IP enterprise network environment had years to develop cybersecurity methodologies and standards. Tools have been structured to maximize security for the endpoints. As various security products make it difficult to exploit devices, they ultimately protect critical elements of the network due to proper segmentation. Up until now, the enterprises oversaw their own IT/OT networks, some on-prem and some on-cloud.

The addition of cellular networks to that mix, which are highly flexible in implementation possibilities, have demanded that enterprises adapt to a whole new type of security management – one that is not IP-focused, but rather cellular-focused. Meanwhile, the IoT devices that were communicating exclusively via the IT/OT have started communicating on the cellular networks. Accordingly, the need to ensure that a vulnerable IoT device will not risk the rest of the network remains the same. This risk further intensifies when devices move between networks.

Even though the cybersecurity needs of the OT/IT and the private cellular networks are very much alike, the cellular security toolkit is very different. Instead of focusing on protecting the end-users, the cellular security methodology has often revolved around the cellular core itself.

The main parties that embraced cellular technology up until recent years were MNOs, rather than enterprises, and their main needs for the technology were not the same for obvious reasons. The MNOs’ focus was on collecting billing data, preventing fraud, ensuring valid authentications, but not necessarily on preventing access to critical endpoints.

So, what should we do for a better tomorrow?

To really unlock the potential of private cellular and enable the transition to secured private LTE/5G networks, we must match the standards of the IT/OT environment. This means adopting several key OT/IT cybersecurity features such as:

Full Asset Visibility

We need to aspire to have real-time visibility to all connected devices. This includes information regarding the device type, location, vulnerabilities, activity, and inter-networks identities matching.

Context-based Segmentation

We should leverage device identification for automatic enforce of corporate NAC (Network Access Control) policy for greater security. This will allow us to segmentate and micro-segmentate the different devices and applications running in the network. This capability can only be truly achieved if we reach phenomenal understanding of our network, which is a direct result of visibility done right.

Cellular Detection and Response

We must detect anomalous behavior of devices and traffic to allow for effective response to misconfigurations and malicious behavior. Any unidentified device, abnormal protocol, or change in the pattern of traffic should be accounted for and accurately analyzed.

Zero-trust Device Connectivity

In a private cellular network, connectivity demands ownership of a SIM. Thus, a password alone is insufficient as means to get access to the network. While this improves the overall state of security, it also hinders the operational flexibility available in an IP environment – where one can connect new devices at much more ease. Zero trust authentication capabilities were designed in a way that can maintain this security standard while still enabling automatic admission of new devices.

OneLayer’s Solution

In essence, we must bridge the gap between security protocols and management in the classic IT environment and in the new enterprise cellular environment. OneLayer was built by world-class cyber security experts with deep understanding of both in cellular protocols and IoT security needs. In OneLayer, we ensure that the best IoT security toolkit is implemented in your cellular environment, so you can achieve the desired standard of security for your private network.

To achieve these targets, we integrate with all your existing security tools in the OT/IT environment and expand their policies and capabilities into the cellular domain. We believe that private cellular is a real revolution in terms of connectivity and that it will speed up Industry 4.0, maybe faster than any other technology in the market. It is now in the hands of enterprises to ensure this transition will be as swift, effective, and secure as possible. Ultimately, once the solutions do catch up, the next generation of smart enterprise networks has the potential to be even more secure.

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