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Federal Communications Commission Advisory Council Recommends 5G Vulnerability Changes

Jericho Casper

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Photo of Lee Thibaudeau, chair of the the Managing Security Risk in the Transition to 5G Working Group, courtesy of Nsight News

June 11, 2020 — The Federal Communications Commission’s Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council voted to accept recommendations addressing how vulnerabilities of 5G infrastructure might impact the integrity and confidentiality of wireless networks Wednesday.

Lee Thibaudeau, chair of Working Group 2, which was tasked with the investigation, presented a summary of the report as well as proposed mitigation practices.

The group found that the transition from 4G to 5G will be unlike previous communications technology advancements, due to the non-standalone nature of 5G architecture.

While the transition from 3G to 4G required a complete replacement of radio networks and core switching technology, 5G non-standalone architecture allows an operator to deploy 5G by leveraging 4G radio networks and core infrastructure.

This means that legacy 4G vulnerabilities will continue to effect 5G networks, prompting the working group’s recommendation the FCC take into account existing 4G security recommendations.

They further recommended that the agency actively participate in supply chain risk management programs, stating public-private partnerships are necessary for developing trusted 5G networks.

The final critical privacy recommendation was to use encryption features to secure user planes, or the communications between devices and base stations.

The group’s recommendations to the tech industry included implementing new workforce training on next generation internet infrastructure and considering higher layer protections for devices to mitigate user plane threats.

The working group will present further recommendations on 5G vulnerabilities to the agency in December.

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