U.S. cybersecurity and intelligence agencies have released a set of recommendations to address security concerns with 5G standalone network slicing and harden them against possible threats.
“The threat landscape in 5G is dynamic; due to this, advanced monitoring, auditing, and other analytical capabilities are required to meet certain levels of network slicing service level requirements over time,” the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) said.
5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, offering increased data speeds and lower latency. Network slicing is an architectural model that allows mobile service providers to partition their network up into several independent “slices” in order to create virtual networks that cater to different clients and use cases.
The latest advisory builds upon guidance previously issued by the agencies in December 2022, warning that network slicing could expose users to a wide range of threat vectors – denial-of-service, jamming, identity theft, and adversary-in-the-middle attacks – effectively hampering the confidentiality, integrity, and the availability of network services.
Concerns with 5G network slicing were detailed in a report published by Enea AdaptiveMobile Security in March 2021, which highlighted the potential for brute-force attacks to gain malicious access to a slice and orchestrate denial-of-service attacks against other network functions.
Then in May 2021, the U.S. government cautioned that inadequate implementation of telecom standards, supply chain threats, and weaknesses in systems architecture could pose major cybersecurity risks to 5G networks, thereby permitting threat actors to exploit the loopholes to extract valuable intelligence from victims.
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In the latest guidance, the authorities cited denial-of-service attacks on the signaling plane, misconfiguration attacks, and adversary-in-the-middle attacks as the three prominent 5G threat vectors, noting that a zero trust architecture (ZTA) can help secure network deployments.
“A big part of ZTA can be accomplished by employing authentication, authorization, and audit (AAA) techniques,” CISA and NSA said. “Proper implementation of authentication and authorization can also mitigate threat vectors stemming from misconfiguration attacks.”
The agencies also said it’s crucial to recognize industry-recognized best-practices of how 5G network slicing can be implemented, designed, deployed, operated, maintained, potentially hardened, and mitigated as they affect Quality of Service (QoS) and service level agreements (SLAs).