Network compromised – The status of telecommunication security
Ábel Maróti (Junior Marketing Manager, Avatao)
When it comes to communication between individuals and companies, telecommunications can’t be missed from the conversation. It impacts every person and business in one way or another. Telecommunications enables businesses to collaborate easily, allows employees to communicate both internally and externally. It is the tool to negotiate and deliver your product and services to the end-users. It is connected to every industry, it encompasses each sector. Telecommunications is everywhere. Hence, this area is more exposed to external threats than others. It is crucial to ensure a strong line of defense in this industry, so your entire organization has up-to-date protection and is aware of best practices. That is why telecom security is most essential.
The importance of telecommunication security
Even though web-based solutions conquer the market, mobile communications still play an important role in personal and corporate communications. Teams use the same telco devices to access data, open and edit documents, send and receive messages. Telecommunications provides a base for business improvement, customer relationship management, and decision-making processes. It reduces the cost of manpower needed for customer service, shipping operations, or technical support.
That being said, protecting the net of telecommunications is a top priority when it comes to security solutions.
Main security challenges for telcos to overcome
Telecom companies are in the crosshairs of many. They build and manage complex infrastructures and thus, they store a large amount of sensitive data. From personal use to government level, operating and protecting telecommunications is critical. The telecommunication network reaches beyond borders as it basically connects the whole world. A group of networks so extended naturally have weak links. Therefore, the impact of an attack can reach far in time and space. Laptops, phones, data clouds, home routers, company databases, you name it. The expense of such an attack is huge, depending on the affected individuals and organizations, not mentioning overall trust issues generated by the cyberthreats. Telecommunications are not only carriers of data but facilitators of the newest technologies. Innovation often brings increased risk, and that’s exactly the case with telcos. A great number of smart devices are also connected to this network, taking part in the Internet of Things. According to a recent Gartner report, in 2021, about 21 billion IoT devices will be connected to telecommunication networks. That number means an increased amount of data and brings great challenges ahead.
Preventing unauthorized access, providing safe monitoring, and ensuring secure data transmission are some of the key elements of these challenges. Telecom security is complex, involves many elements, and of course, it is not that easy keeping up with security trends. Once any equipment is compromised, attackers can use it to launch attacks, extract data, and find several other ways causing extreme data and financial damage.
Attacks in numbers
In 2019, about 42% of telecom companies got attacked by DNS-based malware. Of these companies, for 81% it took three days to remove the breach with the necessary patches. In 2020, each DNS-based attack costs an average of 886,650 USD, which shows a 42% increase compared to the previous year. Another type of attack that occurs often in this industry is DDoS. A distributed-denial-of-service type of attack overwhelms services by using multiple compromised devices to direct internet traffic to the targeted network. Not so surprisingly, 65% of DDoS attacks target communication service providers in 2018. According to the EfficientIP report, beyond financial damage, several customer-based features were impacted: cloud service downtime, compromised websites, and stolen sensitive customer information.
Increase telecommunication security awareness
Just as information technology, in the telecom industry human resources tend to act as the main weak links. Re-using the same passwords across different websites, clicking on suspicious links, or skipping the necessary updates can increase the risk of a security breach. There are many ways employees can help defend the company against cyberattacks, most of which can be assured by establishing a strong culture of cybersecurity.
Employees have a certain responsibility for cybersecurity, but every business exposed to external threats needs professionals to ensure consistent, up-to-date protection. That being said, establishing and maintaining security awareness is not only the responsibility of employees and security champions but that of the management.
The essential security training
Weak links and the risk of being exposed to threats are always present across the telecommunication sector. Besides strengthening security awareness, deploying proper security training also work as a pillar of defense. Implementing secure coding training for your developers is a great asset to reinforce telecom security. Information technology takes a major part in telecommunications, therefore delivering secure code has great importance. By applying regular training can help software engineers excluding vulnerabilities in their code. Security education is a missing part of many training programs. Developers care about speed and effectiveness, and security often comes as an afterthought. Even though it takes time and effort, well-built security knowledge is the best tool to foresee and prevent breaches.
What about the end-users?
Without regrets, we can say that everyone is a telco end-user. Individuals and companies, every business and person have some kind of connection to another through telecommunications. Given the fact this industry connects the world, it is obvious that the threats are constant. We can’t expect people to be cybersecurity professionals, on the contrary: the average person is defenseless against threats and expects the service provider to take care of the security of the consumer. The more complex tools and services telco companies offer, the more difficult it is to provide excellent protection. That makes telecommunication security even more challenging. You can’t assume that the average customers are good at protecting themselves against security threats. You can, however, give proper installation instructions, encryption services, a two-factor authentication option, and more to make sure that your customers are safe.
Telecommunication security is a very complex concept with challenges and risks branching in many directions. Telcos connect devices, people, and companies, creating a network that is unimaginably useful but also carries potential risks. To make sure of an effective defense, management and security teams have to initiate and sustain a strong security culture that includes building secure code, providing regular security training, and overall security awareness to protect the network of service providers, distributors, and end-users from external threats.
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