Security: Both a Challenge and an Opportunity for Service Providers

Service providers face huge security challenges as they move to new technologies.



Communications service providers (CSPs) have faced a challenging security landscape in recent years. The customer data they hold and the high-profile services they provide make them attractive targets for identity thieves and other cybercriminals.


In addition to cybercriminals, CSPs face attacks from government-sponsored hackers, hacktivists, and other groups.


These attacks have resulted in a series of large breaches:


·         In late 2016, Yahoo’s email service reported two major breaches, potentially affecting 1.5 billion users.


·         Around the same time, U.K. mobile provider Three Mobile reported a compromise of more than 200,000 customer records.


·         In late 2015, a credit bureau data breach exposed as many as 15 million T-Mobile USA consumers  


·         Earlier that year, data breaches at call centers in Mexico, Columbia, and the Philippines exposed the personal information of about 280,000 customers of another U.S. mobile carrier


The list could go on.


Beyond those breaches of traditional CSP services, the security picture has grown more complex in the last couple of years as many providers transition to offer new services such as cloud hosting, content delivery, IoT connectivity, and mobile payments. Many CSPs are redesigning their networks to allow for hyper-virtualization, smart applications, and other services.


IoT, in particular, offers an attractive business model for may CSPs. Many carriers are well-positioned to offer IoT products in connected homes and vehicles, but many early IoT devices have been full of security holes.


Adding to carriers’ security complexity are emerging technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).


SDN allows network managers to configure and manage network resources quickly through automated programs. The increased flexibility can help carriers as they move into cloud computing, mobile technology, and the IoT.


Likewise, NFV allows CSPs to adopt new business models, to radically lower their costs, and to deliver next-generation services. But protecting service providers’ highly dynamic environments requires security tools that tightly integrate security and network technologies. But both of these technologies can also introduce new security risks.


The good news: Most CSPs are serious about protecting their customer data and their networks, and they have many tools and strategies available to help them in their fight against hackers.


Service providers should embrace security automation tools to replace or enhance many of the activities and decisions that now require human intervention. Intelligent automated tools can share network intelligence by detecting, isolating, and responding to threats in real time.


Service providers should also look into end-to-end, carrier-grade security suites designed for the massive scale of mobile networks. Other available security tools can offer simplified management, visibility, and analysis of critical network infrastructure.


The message is, CSPs can’t go it alone when fighting against cyberthreats. They need trusted security partners to help them protect their networks and products.


In addition to security tools, CSPs should share threat information with others in the industry, allowing them to be aware of the evolving attacks happening in real time. Service providers can’t afford to hear details about the latest attack days after it has started. Instead, they need to work together to share information and identify new attack methods.


Service provider networks are transmitting an ever-growing amount of data, much of it their customers’ personal and sensitive information. The content flowing through their networks or services is getting increasingly denser and requires more and more bandwidth. Devices and customers are demanding instant access to data, wherever they are located.


Strong security is essential as CSPs adopt the cloud, deliver managed services, move to 5G, and embrace the IoT. And carrier-grade security also protects CSPs in the present by ensuring that their infrastructure delivering mobile services, enterprise applications, essential connectivity and other critical functionality remains available to customers.


A dynamic cybersecurity environment presents many challenges for service providers but also an abundance of opportunities for helping their customers meet secutity challenges head on.


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