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EU studies risks for the cyber security posed by 5G networks

EU identifies in a report the major risks for the cyber security posed by 5G networks

5G networks is the future, but it’s also dangerous for the cyber security according to EU. Member States, with the support of the Commission and the European Agency for Cybersecurity published a report on the EU coordinated risk assessment on cybersecurity in Fifth Generation (5G) networks. This major step is part of the implementation of the European Commission Recommendation adopted in March 2019 to ensure a high level of cybersecurity of 5G networks across the EU. The document is based on the results of the national cybersecurity risk assessments by all EU Member States. It identifies the main threats and threats actors, the most sensitive assets, the main vulnerabilities (including technical ones and other types of vulnerabilities) and a number of strategic risks.This assessment provides the basis to identify mitigation measures that can be applied at national and European level.

The security challenges for the European Union

The EU report identifies a number of important security challenges, which are likely to appear or become more prominent in 5G networks, compared with the situation in existing networks. These security challenges are mainly linked to:

  1. key innovations in the 5G technology (which will also bring a number of specific security improvements), in particular the important part of software and the wide range of services and applications enabled by 5G;
  2. the role of suppliers in building and operating 5G networks and the degree of dependency on individual suppliers. an increased exposure to attacks and more potential entry points for attackers. 

The expected effect caused by the roll-out of 5G networks

With 5G networks increasingly based on software, risks related to major security flaws, such as those deriving from poor software development processes within suppliers are gaining in importance. They could also make it easier for threat actors to maliciously insert backdoors into products and make them harder to detect. Due to new characteristics of the 5G network architecture and new functionalities, certain pieces of network equipment or functions are becoming more sensitive, such as base stations or key technical management functions of the networks. An increased exposure to risks related to the reliance of mobile network operators on suppliers. This will also lead to a higher number of attacks paths that might be exploited by threat actors and increase the potential severity of the impact of such attacks. Among the various potential actors, non-EU States or State-backed are considered as the most serious ones and the most likely to target 5G networks.

The new technology will highlight he risk profile of individual suppliers, including  the ones being subject to interference from a non-EU country

In this context of increased exposure to attacks facilitated by suppliers, the risk profile of individual suppliers will become particularly important, including the likelihood of the supplier being subject to interference from a non-EU country. There are also increased risks from major dependencies on suppliers: a major dependency on a single supplier increases the exposure to a potential supply interruption, resulting for instance from a commercial failure, and its consequences. It also aggravates the potential impact of weaknesses or vulnerabilities, and of their possible exploitation by threat actors, in particular where the dependency concerns a supplier presenting a high degree of risk. Finally, there are threats to availability and integrity of networks will become major security concerns. In addition to confidentiality and privacy threats, with 5G networks expected to become the backbone of many critical IT applications, the integrity and availability of those networks will become major national security concerns and a major security challenge from an EU perspective. 

Theese challenges create a new cyber security paradigm. It’s necessary to reassess the current policy and security framework applicable to the sector and its ecosystem and essential for Member states to take the necessary mitigating measures

Together, these challenges create a new security paradigm, making it necessary to reassess the current policy and security framework applicable to the sector and its ecosystem and essential for Member states to take the necessary mitigating measures. To complement the Member States’ report, the European Agency for Cybersecurity is finalising a specific threat landscape mapping related to 5G networks, which considers in more detail certain technical aspects covered in the report. By 31 December 2019, the Cooperation Group should agree on a toolbox of mitigating measures to address the identified cybersecurity risks at national and Union level. Furthermore, by 1 October 2020, Member States – in cooperation with the Commission – should assess the effects of the Recommendation in order to determine whether there is a need for further action. This assessment should take into account the outcome of the coordinated European risk assessment and of the effectiveness of the measures.

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