Cybersecurity Challenges and Solutions in the Telecom Industry

Cybersecurity in Telecom

The telecommunication industry has always been an integral part of every aspect whether it is related to the business or individuals, providing a variety of services that connect and communicate with millions of people worldwide. In recent years, the industry has experienced a fundamental transformation with the developments of network technologies, most recently 5G network technology. Today, telecom providers are increasingly rushing to deliver enhanced and improved mobile network services that are already creating competition across the sector, and this has led telecommunication companies toward digital transformation.

Since the telecom industry touches almost every aspect of life alongside critical infrastructure, it could prone to cyber attacks. Significantly, the sector builds and operates complex networks and stores voluminous amounts of sensitive data associated with individuals and corporate. These are among the reasons that make this field more lucrative to malicious actors or hackers. Over the years, the security vulnerabilities of telecom devices have been increased dramatically and now equipping a major space of the threat landscape.

DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack is one of the most common types of direct cyberattacks that can make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users by temporarily or indefinitely disrupting services of a host connected to the Internet. As this kind of cyber attack is not new for the telecom providers, a 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report unveiled that the telecom industry experiences more DDoS attacks than any other industry. These attacks have the ability to condense network capacity, swell traffic costs, disrupt the availability of service, and even compromise internet access by hitting ISPs.

DNS-based attacks are the other major cyberattacks that still disrupt telecom service providers. The cost of such attacks is surging over time, and an attack costs a telecom company an average of US$622,000 in 2017. According to a report, telcos lose an average of US$886,560 from each DNS attack, an increase of 42 percent in just 12 months.

Moreover, there are several core telecommunication services that are still powered by blemished protocols such as SS7 (Signalling System No. 7) or Diameter. Particularly, SS7 protocol has become one of the major cyber threats to the banking industry since hackers are easily able to block 2FA authentication codes and drain users’ accounts. On the other hand, newer protocols such as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) can also be tremendously vulnerable to cyber threats without proper controls in place. In 2018, malicious actors exploited a SIP vulnerability in two Cisco products to trigger high CPU usage and take a system offline. The attack was the result of improper handling of SIP traffic, where an attacker could exploit this vulnerability by sending SIP requests designed to specifically trigger this issue at a high rate across an affected device.

Navigating Cyber Threats with Holistic Security Strategy 

Despite these uncertainties, telecom service providers, particularly large global operators, are adapting themselves to advanced technology and tech companies. Kaspersky, for instance, is assisting businesses to modify their security strategies to safeguard themselves against advanced threats and attacks. By embracing a holistic cybersecurity approach including threat detection, incident response methods, prevention measures and others, telecommunication companies can dodge cyber risks posed by the security vulnerabilities inherent to their industry.

As today’s cyber criminals are relentlessly honing and evolving their capabilities to exploit new vulnerabilities, addressing such threats will require talent acquisition and investment efforts with comprehensive, up-to-the-minute knowledge regarding information assets, ecosystem threats, and vulnerabilities.

So, as the telecom industry is at the forefront of technological innovation leveraging advanced technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, improved network advancements like most recently developed 5G, the telecom service providers also must consider cybersecurity solutions for better services.

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