The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have recently released a joint guidance on the security considerations for 5G network slicing. This guidance is a part of their ongoing efforts to enhance cybersecurity measures and provide comprehensive specifications and mitigations for potential threats.
What is 5G Network Slicing?
5G network slicing is a technology that allows multiple virtual networks to be created on top of a common shared physical infrastructure. Each virtual network, or "slice", can provide specific network capabilities and characteristics to fit a user's needs. Although multiple network slices run on a single physical network, network slice users are authenticated for only one network area, enabling data and security isolation.
Potential Threats to 5G Network Slicing
As with any emerging technology, with increased benefits come increased risks. The NSA and CISA have identified several potential threats to 5G network slicing, including:
- Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks: These primarily impact the availability of a network slice, causing communication services to be severely compromised or unavailable under these types of attacks.
- Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks: These can have a broad range of adverse effects on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of a network slice. Such an attack could be devastating, as misinformation and disinformation could result from the malicious actor modifying the contents of the messages.
- Configuration Attacks: These have a broad range of adverse effects on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of a network slice. These attacks are when malicious actors exploit configured system controls.
Strategies for Network Slicing
The NSA and CISA have suggested several strategies to mitigate these risks, including:
- Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA): ZTA is based on the principle of “never trust, always verify,” which directly relates to the confidentiality and integrity of a given system. It focuses on eliminating implicit trust and continuously validating every stage of a digital interaction through strong authentication and authorization methods.
- Multi-Layer Security (MLS): With the proper access control and authentication, MLS permits access to users with different levels of access while preventing users from obtaining access to information for which they lack authorization. MLS protects itself from subversion and has robust mechanisms to separate information domains based on trustworthiness.
- Cross-Domain Solutions (CDS): CDS is defined as a form of controlled interface, a boundary with a set of mechanisms that enforces the security policies and controls the flow of information between interconnected information systems.
The guidance provided by the NSA and CISA is a crucial step in understanding and mitigating the potential threats associated with 5G network slicing. As the adoption of 5G technology continues to grow, it is essential for organizations to understand these risks and implement the recommended strategies to ensure the security and integrity of their networks.