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Jimmy Jones: UK Telecom Security Bills Drive Global Regulation and Network Security Standards Beyond 5G

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Jimmy Jones, a telecom cybersecurity expert for Positive Technologies

The telecoms security bills raised for consideration in the UK parliament recently are really interesting, but not just for the reason that has been the focus of the major news agencies.

The Huawei situation has been front and center of all reporting and as a reflection of the current global political environment, that is only right. The rift between China and the West has probably never been larger and Huawei have found themselves front and center.

However, uncertainty surrounding Huawei has been present for some time now, so it’s possible that mobile operators have already planned for life without them.

Reading deeper, there are other areas of interest. The law is establishing the operator’s security responsibility beyond the exclusion of certain vendors, to network security as a whole, as well as forcing change in the telecom supply chain, driving vendor diversity to combat the security vulnerabilities of monoculture or duo culture networks.

But these goals are not unique to the UK.

The Prague conference and a 5G agreement on security

In 2019, 32 countries attended a 5G conference in Prague and announced an agreement in principle on security. Shortly after the event, the European Union released the EU Toolkit, which was supported by a document from ENISA, the Europen Union’s Cyber security advisers. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the U.S. released a strategy document of late that mirrored much of the EU’s.

Within both papers, and others globally, we see reference to greater regulatory powers, and in the last week the UK has been the first to move enshrining these powers in law, while at the same time setting the bar for fines, £100,000 a day or 10% of revenue.

Even with Brexit looming, the UK will still closely align with the EU and are part of the wider “5 eyes partnership”, so it’s reasonable to expect the fines and laws to be similar and follow closely in these associated states. Additionally, the Trump administration’s “Clean Network” initiative again mirrors the Prague agreement and this is publicly supported by a number of their allies who were not present in Prague – for example, Latin America.

Therefore, while this legislation is specific to the UK, it indicates the direction of regulation well beyond those shores.

OFCOM, the UK regulator, will be given new powers to direct telecoms providers to take interim steps to address security gaps, but this is not restricted to standalone 5G networks. The legislation states who has access to sensitive parts of the core network, how security audits should be conducted, and how customer data must be protected. This will force operators to improve their security protection for all generations, rather than just 5G networks.

The regulation was released in two parts, the second concentrating on diversifying the network beyond the one or two vendors available today. This again mirrors the stated goals of the CISA though they take it further, offering prizes and R&D incentives for innovation to secure the supply chain.

Taking on the issue of security directly by excluding Chinese vendors

This addresses a big issue directed at policy makers when they excluded Chinese vendors. The argument is that exclusion slows the rollout of 5G, so the country will either fail to take full advantage of the move to industry 4.0, or make it more expensive, or slower for consumers to benefit from the new technology.

However, we do also see the opposite effect. The Huawei strategy has accelerated Open RAN, with Dell’Oro Group predicting huge rises in investment accelerated by the decision to limit Chinese equipment, reducing competition. The UK’s decision to create the SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre and the support of the NeutrORAN project with NEC should also create commercial opportunity and the incentives to drive innovation and new market entrants.

Ensuring the security for this abundance of new suppliers could be a problem. The program will have its hands full keeping track and vetting these new, likely small and niche vendors. I have no doubt the labs will be able to assure the quality of solutions. But many could be functions never seen before, driven by 5G applications we haven’t thought of yet. So complexity and volumes will put the pressure on labs to certify the solutions quickly enough for the market.

New applications develop much faster than established technologies, so they need updating more often. Interactions and behavior between applications may change as new ideas are developed. So just getting new vendors securely to market is ambitious. Yet this is just the start – you must secure the long-term maintenance and management processes. This means software patching, upgrades, configuration, expansion projects and the many other day-to-day activities a network needs.

It’s a massive task, but the UK government has to be commended for starting to address an issue that will affect every country and every individual for the rest of our lives.

Jimmy Jones has worked in telecoms for such major operators as WorldCom (now Verizon) and vendors including Nortel, Genband and Positive Technologies (since 2017). From legacy telecom exchanges to integration and protocol interoperability testing, Jones changed in 2005 to SIP and Session Boarder Controller equipment. He’s been on the front lines from Tier 3 and 4 wholesale carriers to Tier 1 operators using SIP for peering and access as part of the move to IMS and LTE networks. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

5G

David Flower: 5G and Hyper-Personalization: Too Much of a Good Thing?

5G, IoT and edge computing are giving companies the opportunity to make hyper-personalization even more ‘hyper’.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is David Flower, CEO of Volt Active Data

It’s very easy for personalization to backfire and subtract value instead of add it.

Consider the troubling fact that we may be arriving at a moment in hyper-personalization’s journey where the most hyper-personalized offer is no offer at all. Nobody likes to be constantly bombarded by content, personalized or not.

And that’s the paradox of hyper-personalization: if everyone’s doing it, then, in a sense, nobody is.

5G and related technologies such as IoT and edge computing are giving companies the opportunity to make hyper-personalization even more “hyper” via broader bandwidths and the faster processing of higher volumes of data.

This means we’re at a very interesting inflection point: where do we stop? If the promise of 5G is more data, better data, and faster data, and the result is knowing our customers even better to bug them even more, albeit in a “personal” way, when, where, and why do we say, “hold on—maybe this is going too far.”?

How do you do hyper-personalization well in a world where everyone else is doing it and where customers are becoming increasingly jaded about it and worried about how companies are using their data?

Let’s first look at what’s going wrong.

Hyper-personalization and bad data

Hyper-personalization is very easy to mess up, and when you do mess it up it has the exact opposite of its intended effect: it drives customers away instead of keeping them there.

Consider an online ad for a product that pops up for you on a website a couple days after you already bought the thing being advertised for. This is what I call “noise”. It’s simply a nuisance, and the company placing that ad—or rather, the data platform they’re using to generate the algorithms for the ads—should already know that the person has already bought this item and hence present not a “repeat offer” but an upsell or cross-sell offer.

This sounds rudimentary in the year 2022 but it’s still all too common, and you’re probably nodding your head right now because you’ve experienced this issue.

Noise usually comes from what’s known as bad data, or dirty data. Whatever you want to call it—it pretty much ruins the customer experience.

Hyper-personalization and slow data

The second major issue is slow data, which is any data being used way too slowly to be valuable, which usually includes data that has to the trip to the data warehouse before it can be incorporated into any decisions.

Slow data is one of the main reasons edge computing was invented: to be able to process data as closely to where it’s ingested as possible in order to use it before it loses any value.

Slow data produces not-so-fun customer experiences such as walking half a mile to your departure gate at the airport, only to find that the gate has been changed, and then, after you’ve walked the half mile back to where you came from, getting a text message on your phone from the airline saying your gate has been changed.

Again, whatever you want to call it—latency, slow data, annoying—the end result is a bad customer experience.

How to fix the hyper-personalization paradox

I have no doubt that the people who invented hyper-personalization had great intentions: make things as personal as possible so that your customers pay attention, stay happy, and stay loyal.

And for a lot of companies, for a long time, it worked. Then came the data deluge. And the regulations. And the jaded customers. We’re now at a stage where we need to rethink how we do personalization because the old ways are no longer effective.

It’s easy—and correct—to blame legacy technology for all of this. But the solution goes deeper than just ripping and replacing. Companies need to think holistically about all sides of their tech stacks to figure out the simplest way to get as much data as possible from A to B.

The faster you can process your data the better. But it’s not all just about speed. You also need to be able to provide quick contextual intelligence to your data so that every packet is informed by all of the packets that came before it. In this sense, your tech stack should be a little like a great storyteller: someone who knows what the customer needs and is feeling at any given moment, because it knows what’s happened up to this point and how it will affect customer decisions moving forward.

Let’s start thinking of our customer experiences as stories and our tech stacks as the storytellers—or maybe, story generators. Maybe then our personalization efforts will become truly ‘hyper-personal’— i.e., relevant, in-the-moment experiences that are a source of delight instead of annoyance.

David Flower brings more than 28 years of experience within the IT industry to the role of CEO of Volt Active Data. Flower has a track record of building significant shareholder value across multiple software sectors on a global scale through the development and execution of focused strategic plans, organizational development and product leadership. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Optional Security Features for 5G Technology Poses Risks

The next generation wireless technology is being touted as the most secure yet.

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Photo of Dan Elmore of the Idaho National Labratory

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2022 – 5G technology can still present security concerns despite being touted as the most secure of the cellular generations, said Dan Elmore of the Idaho National Laboratory at a 5G Future event Thursday.

In response to the emerging challenge of validating 5G security protocols and data protection technologies, the Idaho National Laboratory established its Wireless Security Institute in 2019 to coordinate government, academic, and private industry research efforts to foster more secure and reliable 5G technology.

While 5G network offers a “rich suite” of security features in the standards, most of it is optional for manufacturers and developers to choose to implement in their system or device, said Elmore, who is the director for critical infrastructure security at the INL. This poses a significant challenge for 5G, particularly for critical infrastructure applications, as consumers may not know how standards are implemented, Elmore said.

Elmore urged consumers, especially federal agencies, to ask the hard questions and consider “what vulnerabilities might be present in how they [manufacturers and developers] employ those standards that could be exploited.”

5G is designed to allow cellular devices to connect at higher speeds with lower latency, the delay in loading requests, than previous generations. Already, wireless carriers are incorporating it into devices and working on national 5G networks.

Because of its facilitation of real-time monitoring, 5G technology is expected to help tackle critical issues like climate change and environmental sustainability.

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5G Will Help Enhance Environment Protection and Sustainability, Conference Hears

The technology has already been used by companies to monitor and make more efficient systems to reduce emissions.

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Photo of Bourhan Yassin, CEO of Rainforest Connection

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Because of its facilitation of real-time monitoring and more efficient use of systems, 5G technology will help tackle climate change and beef up environmental sustainability, an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event heard Tuesday.

5G technology’s ubiquitous connectivity and lower latency enables climate technology that decarbonizes manufacturing plants, enables rainforest monitoring, and limits greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

5G also enables real-time traffic control and monitoring that can help minimize carbon footprint, said John Hunter from T-Mobile, which has a large 5G network thanks in part to its merger with Sprint.

Finnish 5G equipment supplier Nokia has invested in smart manufacturing relying on the speed of 5G in its plants, which it said has resulted in a 10 to 20 percent carbon dioxide reduction and a 30 percent productivity improvement with 50 percent reduction in product defects.

Non-profit tech startup Rainforest Connection has used 5G technology to implant sensitive microphones into endangered rainforests in over 22 countries around the world. These microphones pick up on sounds in the forest and transmit them in real time to personnel on the ground.

These highly sensitive machines are camouflaged in trees and can pick up sounds of gunfire from poaching and chainsaws from illegal logging activity from miles away. The technology has proven to be significant in rainforest conservation and will enable researchers and scientists to find innovative solutions to help endangered species as they study the audio.

“By being able to integrate technologies such as 5G, we can accelerate that process… to achieve the mission [of mitigating climate change effects] sooner than we expected,” said Rainforest Connection CEO Bourhan Yassin.

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