- Field service
- data security
Telecom Security in the Digital Age: Protecting Confidential Information in the Face of Evolving Threats
Telecom security grows in importance
In today’s highly competitive and volatile market, mobile operators are finding themselves responsible for safeguarding confidential information. With the threat landscape evolving rapidly, ensuring data security in their infrastructure has become a top priority.
The changing security landscape
With the emergence of new technological advances, such as 5g networking and the Internet of Things (IoT), the volume of information generated by corporations and individuals has significantly increased. This data is transmitted over public or private networks operated by local or national service providers. Consumers and businesses have become more aware of the possibility of their confidential information being misused. Therefore, Telecommunications professionals need to implement strong measures to protect this data.
How have Telecommunications networks evolved?
Even though securing Telecommunications networks is a complex task that involves multiple elements, Telcos have long acted as the first line of defense against cyber threats. However, what has been changing is their network foundation. Traditional networks were circuit-switched, analog, and had limited intelligence. Now, they rely on IP network packet-switched digital technology and are more intelligent.
These changes have enabled carriers to offer more comprehensive and appealing services, such as streaming video and augmented reality/virtual reality. However, the adoption of cloud, IPv6, and 5g mobile networks has also created some downsides, including increased network complexity, the number of potential entry points, and security risks. As a result, the Telecom network infrastructure must also evolve to protect customers data.
Key security issues within telecom
Consumers and businesses have an insatiable thirst for data. Individuals spend countless hours on social media, sharing photos, liking images, and posting comments. Meanwhile, corporations collect all of that information and try to leverage it for new revenue streams. Additionally, real-time communication technologies allow businesses to respond to market opportunities and challenges as they arise, rather than after the fact. Telecom networks serve as the gateway to this data, creating an ever-expanding attack surface that Telcos cannot fully control, necessitating the need to work with others to ensure its safety.
Attacks grow in numbers
Make no mistake, Telecommunication networks are constantly under attack. Why? Cybercriminals view these companies as high-value targets due to the vast amounts of personal and confidential information they gather, and they target them regularly, causing significant damage.
- In 2019, 42% of Telecom companies were attacked by DNS-based malware, and it took them on average three days to fix the breach.
- DDoS attacks are also common, with 65% of them targeting communication service providers in 2018.
- DNS-based attacks cost an average of $886,650 in 2020, which was a 42% increase compared to the previous year.
Any attack can have far-reaching consequences, depending on its success and what is taken. A data breach has a severe negative financial impact on Telcos. Often, the breached company loses customers who no longer trust that their assets can be protected. Understanding how the breach occurred and implementing checks to prevent it is a time-consuming, sometimes frustrating, and usually expensive process. The Telco suffers reputational damage and must try to mitigate it as much as possible.
The Telecom Cybersecurity Balancing Act
Users hold high expectations for Telecom services: they must always be available, responsive, cost-effective, and secure to support both consumer activity and critical business data exchanges. Achieving this goal is a challenging and complex task. Here are some steps that Telecom companies can take to protect sensitive information.
IoT is popular but insecure
The Internet of Things (IoT) presents a significant challenge for Telcos and internet service providers (ISPs) due to its growing use and the increasing number of potential entry points. Much of the legacy equipment that is gaining intelligence was previously not equipped with any defense mechanisms, leaving users, clients, and companies exposed. IoT devices such as security cameras, smart hubs, sensors, industrial equipment, and network-attached storage devices are among the most vulnerable. Telcos must ensure that they have security measures in place to prevent possible intrusions.
Third-parties create new risks
The advent of the cloud has changed how applications are designed and run. In the past, these systems sat behind a well-defined perimeter in a customer’s data center. As a result, carriers could put checks at entry and exit points and be relatively certain that their information would be protected.
Nowadays, applications are divided into pieces that are processed in many different locations. Consequently, the well-defined perimeter has been breached, and the number of possible paths in and out of the systems has grown.
In many cases, threat actors use a poorly designed third-party link to worm their way into the main systems. Therefore, carriers have to ensure that their third-party vendors and partners have sound security checks in place.
Hackers target Telecom data
To put it simply, data is the ultimate target for cybercriminals, and Telecommunications companies possess a large amount of it. This data can come in many forms – structured, unstructured, on-premises, cloud, hybrid, or edge. To comply with regulations such as the European Unions General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act, Telcos must protect personally identifiable information (PII). Previously, securing information at the network edge was enough, but with the advent of new regulations and privacy requirements, Telcos must now deploy end-to-end data encryption to ensure complete protection.
Creating a strong security architecture
Telcos are often not in the best position to recognize potential security holes. A good step is to call in professional cybersecurity experts who understand how the bad guys operate and can help ensure that the firm has consistent, up-to-date, and effective policies and protection.
The technical staff needs to understand how security functions across the enterprise as well as with their individual initiatives. Providing secure coding training for developers is a valuable asset to reinforce Telecom security and prevent vulnerabilities in software code.
Deploy a robust suite of tools
Potential security holes can arise from many places, so there is no silver bullet that can easily address all of them. Telcos need to implement a range of solutions starting from the lowest networking layer up to the top of the application stack. The required features are broad, and new artificial intelligence-based systems can help with the work.
Specifically, they can:
- Analyze event logs on a large scale to identify security events that affect Telecom network and device resilience
- Detect both known and unknown cyber threats across connected devices using threat intelligence solutions
- Automate event and incident response with machine learning playbooks
Security needed at the application layer
Another change is that attacks used to occur primarily at the network layer, but with the widespread adoption of peer-to-peer processing, higher level weak spots have become more common. Consequently, carriers need to incorporate security into the CI/CD development process, using principles such as DevSecOps to transform the application development lifecycle. Another development is the use of application-level security software to prevent attacks at the upper layers.
Cybersecurity needs to be a corporate initiative
However, cybersecurity is not solely the responsibility of the it department. Developing a strong cybersecurity culture is essential to defend against attacks. Management is accountable for establishing and maintaining security awareness throughout the organization. If they promote it, employees will follow, and best practices should be ingrained in every aspect of the company’s operations.
Employees are the weakest link in the security chain, and their actions expose the company to various risks, such as reusing passwords, clicking on suspicious links, or skipping updates. Phishing scams are especially effective because employees may not understand the threat and fail to take necessary precautions. Therefore, it is crucial to encourage worker buy-in and provide regular cybersecurity training to help employees understand the risks and be cautious as they work.
Protect field service exchanges
Field service teams are crucial in maintaining the Telecommunications network infrastructure. They handle sensitive customer information, such as service history, access to facilities, and equipment service reports that require protection. Telecommunications companies must ensure that their solutions transmit information securely. Adopting a cloud-based system provides a central application point with ingrained security measures that can respond immediately to any new threats, reducing the possibility of an attack.
A mobile device management (MDM) solution is a complimentary tool that enables administrators to manage remote devices and ensure that security protocols are enforced. Additionally, the solution can block access to enterprise systems entirely in the event of device theft.
Help customers protect their data
Telecommunication infrastructure connects everyone in the world, making the industry a constant target for threats that have become increasingly ingenious and effective. The average person is not equipped to protect themselves against cyberattacks, and they expect service providers to ensure their security, particularly the privacy of their information.
Standards, such as ISO 27001, establish best practices that help ensure that Telecommunications companies have tools and procedures in place to thwart outsiders’ attempts to compromise data. Obtaining such certifications creates a sense of security for customers because they follow industry best practices.
Telco companies can enhance customer security by providing proper installation instructions, encryption services, and two-factor authentication.
Digital risk and threat monitoring solutions can harvest information available on the dark web and in the public domain, providing another way to safeguard data, people, and processes.
Telecommunications service providers run the world’s most important IP networks and move the world’s data, making them prime targets for cyberattacks. Securing information requires not only a robust set of security tools but also sound internal business processes. Only then can they avoid the headlines that follow data breaches.
For further resources, head to our blog on Fiber deployments: How service companies can prepare for this growing market opportunity
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Praxedo has been a trusted provider of field service management (FSM) solutions for the world’s leading telecommunications providers since 2005. Our success is attributed to our unwavering focus on delivering the best FSM tools in the market. Unlike other providers, we don’t aim to supply all enterprise applications. Instead, we prioritize our expertise in FSM and offer a cloud-based solution that streamlines deployment from start to finish.
Today, more than 1,300 companies including large enterprises and SMBs, and 40,000 users across the globe rely on Praxedo daily to optimize their field service operations. Our solution enables them to increase productivity, optimize resources, and facilitate seamless data exchanges between field personnel such as technicians and engineers, and their dispatchers.
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