4G LTE networks fed by small cell deployment pose a grave security threat to the IT industry that is expected to reach a head in 2017.
Related: The 10 Commandments of BYOD
Dr Martin Nuss, CTO of Vitesse Semiconductor, told 4G World in Las Vegas that one billion devices will be on 4G LTE networks by 2017 and the way networks are being deployed presents an IT security threat due to the increasing of the bring your own device [BYOD] trend.
“BYOD is revolutionizing Enterprise connectivity, with the real potential to enable a better-connected and more productive workforce,” said Dr Nuss. “As an industry, however, we need to focus on overcoming this potential security threat so that 4G LTE networks can continue to flourish and businesses can reap the benefits of BYOD, while keeping their networks secure.”
Small cell base stations are needed for LTE and LTE-A capacity improvements and pose a security due to the fact they are at street level thus making them more susceptible to hacking and tampering than macro base stations.
Nuss added that small cell backhaul often occurs over third-party access provider networks and there’s a possibility these won’t have the same security standards as the wireless operator.
This in mind, Ness recommends that small cells be authenticated on the primary ISP network before traffic is then encrypted back to the ISP, including over the third-party access provider network.
Encryption technologies, such as IPSec, can achieve this but are expensive and new Ethernet-based technologies, for example flow-based extensions to MACSec, could be more cost effective and better suited to small cell deployments.
Timing security is another factor that has to be taken into consideration for LTE and LTE-A networks as GPS timing is a non-factor where signal strength is low or non existent. This is particularly the case when there is no line of sight to satellites in busy urban centres or indoors.
Small cells are also particularly susceptible to GPS jamming and spoofing, with Ness recommending that packet-based network timing using IEEE 1588 is the right alternative for small cells, just so long as 1588 can be secured.
Deployments of small cells are on track to mushroom over the coming decade as the amount of smartphone shipments hit 1.8 billion annually by 2018 and by plugging these gaps now it prepares IT for any problems later on.