Do 4G Networks Give Hackers a Head Start?
The “Next Big Thing” in wireless is the rollout of potentially ubiquitous 4G networks. Where in the past wireless networks were based mostly on their capacity to carry voice from user to user, these next-gen networks are based almost entirely on their ability to provide high-speed data connections — effectively turning wireless carriers into “full-fledged internet service providers,” according to a recent Heavy Reading analysis.
That’s great for those of us streaming movies to our iPad or video-conference on our Androids, but the rise of “public” 4G Internet availability is also presenting some new, and daunting, security challenges to enterprise mobility managers.
“The growing variety of threats and attack vectors in the mobile network mean that both the challenge of threat detection and mitigation, as well as the price of failing to meet that challenge, is steadily increasing,” Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan reported.
4G LTE vulnerable
The problem is that the underlying architecture of LTE 4G networks exposes several security vulnerabilities. Other security breaches, including conventional “distributed denial of service” attacks (DDoS) and an increase in expected signaling volume also present concerns.
The trouble is, 4G networks have a flat, IP-based architecture that is more familiar to hackers than previous wireless generations. As such, 4G subscribers and corporate mobility managers could be giving hackers a head start while their mobile security competency gets up to speed.
According to the latest market forecasts from ABI Research, nearly 90 million 4G-enabled devices are expected to ship this year alone. ABI also revealed that LTE is winning the “lion’s share” of the market.
A separate analysis from the research firm suggested that nearly two-thirds of wireless carriers in the Asia-Pacific region have either rolled out LTE networks or are planning on conducting trial deployments. Verizon has recently revealed similar progress in the United States, claiming its 4G LTE network would be available to two-thirds of the U.S. population by the end of April.
With 4G-enabled devices already, or soon to be, a reality in the workplace, companies must take note of these new security risks and respond appropriately. Luckily, firewall and intrusion prevention vendors are making considerable progress in updating their offering for a 4G world, also.
The transition from securing devices on a 3G to a 4G world may not be easy, though. It may be smart for enterprise mobility managers to be a little selective about deploying 4G-enabled devices, at least at first, limiting them for only the most pressing business needs, until their security program has a plan in place to ensure their coverage. Not only will that help avoid overreaching on performance at the cost of security, but it will control corporate wireless spend as well.
Image via Gizmodo.