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5G network
slicing security:
benefits and
requirements

Author: Shane Schick

The potential benefits of 5G network slicing security may not be well understood today, but they could soon prove invaluable as more organizations seek to tailor the way they deliver applications and other services.

Traditionally, IT departments had limited options to scale and deploy technology as their organization grew in size and complexity. In order to address the requirements of specific software programs, devices or operators, in many cases they had to set up separate physical networks. Network slicing offers a compelling alternative.

How network slicing works

By splitting a single physical network into several virtual networks (or slices), IT teams can ensure that each application gets the dedicated connection bandwidth, security and network performance attributes, capable of delivering high quality of service levels.

Some examples of where network slicing could come in handy include mobile broadband applications, such as video chat, which demands a high rate of data transfer. 5G network slicing should eventually help businesses use the full range of IoT capabilities by providing a dedicated and contained part of the network to fully control and support critical IoT solutions. 

While 5G promises to support an unprecedented array of use cases to transform customer and employee experiences, 5G network slicing could represent a way to ensure that organizations get the performance they're expecting.

5G network slicing security benefits at a glance

Beyond offering the promises of service quality and reliability, 5G network slicing should put organizations in a better position to protect themselves against threats that could compromise the security of mission-critical data.

Imagine a cyber criminal targeting an organization with a malware attack, for instance. Having the network "carved" into slices means that the malware might be isolated and quickly contained in a single slice before it infects the rest of the network.

Beyond that, a big part of effective IT security lies in being able to identify suspicious activity as early as possible. 5G network slicing could also offer security advantages through its potential to baseline against traffic types according to specific virtual network segments for distinct applications and use cases. That should mean stronger anomaly detection, which in turn could lead to reduced data breach protection time.

5G network slicing security considerations

Of course, there are some potential risks with 5G network slicing.

Network slice instances, for example, could require such supporting capabilities as dynamic auto-scaling as well as high availability to address the performance requirements of mission critical applications. IT teams should also consider end-to-end deployment of security functions based on the use case requirements, such as traffic traveling from the network edge through a core cloud and then to the internet.

Sophisticated cyber criminals could also attempt to attack a specific network slice instance or host. Depending on how slices are established, IT teams would need to review any differences in protocols and policies, and whether they are sufficient based on the use case in question.

Organizations could mitigate these risks by adding slice-specific virtualized security network functions, such as a virtual firewall. However, once network slices have been deployed, it would be best to work with a managed service provider to determine which kind of analytics tools might be able to provide greater visibility into possible threats.

When it comes to choosing the right provider, consider whether any purpose-built hardware supporting security functions, such as intrusion detection and firewalls, have been deployed throughout the network. And of course, security features should be deployed from 5G standards.

Learn more about how to move to 5G with the best possible security in place.