A private network is any connection within a specified network, wherein restrictions are established to promote a secure environment. This type of network can be configured in such a way that devices outside the network cannot access it. Of late, enterprises have started deploying private 5G/LTE networks, owing to the various benefits associated with their deployment. The use of private 5G/LTE networks allows businesses to take advantage of cellular networks that are able to handle heavy traffic better than Wi-Fi over larger areas. Further, they offer higher speeds and functionality and can support innovative applications. A private network also offers support to Industry 4.0 applications and the growing number of connected devices.
Enterprises stepping up deployment
For quite some time, corporations and industrial enterprises have been using private cellular networks with the help of telcos or mobile network operators. From enabling cellular connectivity in corporate campuses to networking for large remote operations, some private cellular networks have already deployed technologies as old as 2G. To support the applications of Industry 4.0 and the growing number of connected devices, businesses need a reliable, clean, wireless spectrum, uninterrupted by competing traffic. They also need increased coverage, reliable handover capabilities and, of course, security and privacy.
With the maturation of private network technology, opportunities to introduce myriad new use cases and benefits to organisations across verticals became clear to both businesses and service providers. In recent times, telecom digital transformation has been fuelled by the Covid-19 crisis, which hit the fast forward button on the adoption of private networks in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, utilities and public safety.
Key use cases
Private networks provide an ultra-secure network solution that can support businesses moving to Industry 4.0. Its use cases include businesses in various industries dealing with sensor data monitoring, location and tracking, robotics, self-driving or autonomous guided vehicles, augmented reality, connected workers and more. When combined with Edge computing, mobile private network can support immediate responses and decision-making. tele.net takes a look at some of the benefits of deploying private networks.
Assured coverage is the most apparent benefit of using a private network. It is assured in the enterprise’s operations area, both indoors and outdoors, as required, through a dedicated spectrum, even in remote locations such as mines or offshore oil rigs.
Ensured capacity is an essential feature of private networks, as this removes any contention with other network users, making it possible to guarantee network performance, such as uplink and downlink bit rates and latency.
Critical reliability is assured as private networks are based on LTE/5G technology, which offers performance and enables applications that cannot be accommodated by Wi-Fi, such as the ability of delivering communication means where conventional networks cannot meet the required demands, and providing ultra-high-definition video surveillance.
Predictable and ensured low latency is another important feature. It is a requirement for many internet of things (IoT) applications that rely on time-bound communications, where delays can result in a catastrophic failure, such as for critical control of remote devices like heavy machinery.
High data speed
High data speeds for communication compared to narrowband land mobile radio systems, which suffer from capacity restraints, are also offered. Low latency is crucial for video and high-resolution imagery, desirable in many industry segments.
Types of attacks
While there are many benefits of deploying private networks, the risks involved are no less as private 5G/LTE networks remain vulnerable to cyberattacks. Increased industrial internet of things exposure, physical mobility of people and devices on the network and the interplay between enterprises, mobile network operators, IoT manufacturers and operational technology vendors and suppliers, all contribute to the security challenges of a private network. Some of the main types of attacks being launched on private networks are…
Threats from emerging networks
Private networks are often capable of communicating with devices and networks outside their secure fortresses, with IoT devices where security is challenging to monitor and control remotely. Besides, IoT devices have public IP addresses, which are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Meanwhile, with 5G roll-out expected soon, a source of new threats is expected to emerge that would grow with an all-virtual network and stacks of intersecting information technologies and communication technologies. In addition, interconnections with multiple devices, software and firmware can pose possible vulnerabilities to cyberattacks in the 5G era.
Denial of service
Denial of service (DoS) refers to attacks on a device or a network that deny connectivity or access to a specific connected service. Various companies in the manufacturing space have started using private 5G networks to improve connectivity at their factories, allowing different components in a factory to work together more efficiently. Since these components rely on the private cellular network for communication, a DoS attack aimed at harming even a single perfectly orchestrated process can shut the entire facility down. This can have severe financial implications for companies.
Mobile network mapping
In this type of attack, wireless data-sniffing devices are used to identify data sent over cellular signals. This data is used to determine the types of devices connected to the network. This is known as a mobile network mapping (MNmap) attack or device fingerprinting. This type of attack enables malicious actors to access sensitive information on devices within a private network and weaken their capabilities. Such an attack can prove to be quite catastrophic in the context of social welfare systems. In health and social welfare systems using private 5G networks to provide services, an MNmap attack can endanger the privacy and safety of patients.
Another type of man-in-the-middle attack can send signals that cause device batteries to drain rapidly. These attacks can have serious, even life-threatening consequences when used against networks that are used to maintain critical IoT devices. For instance, a battery drain attack can be quite dangerous on a private cellular network used by mining companies to make their equipment operate more safely and efficiently. This is because replacing the battery is a hazardous and complex operation in itself.
A hacker that has gained access to a private network via international mobile subscriber identity impersonation (or some other method) can launch domain name server (DNS) spoofing attacks on that network. Such attacks can enable fraudsters to change the IP address of the requested DNS server and then redirect domain requests to malicious sites under their own control. A DNS spoofing attack could be incredibly harmful in school districts where private networks are used for remote learning. Cybercriminals could use DNS spoofing to display unwanted content to students by redirecting the traffic from educational portals and virtual classroom links.
The way forward
Private cellular networks are expected to play a significant role in future wireless technologies for enterprise on-premises connectivity. By tailoring to customer-specific needs, they offer users greater constrol, scalability, security and a combination of other key capabilities that is difficult to achieve with other traditional solutions. As the demand for private cellular networks grows, stakeholders will need to successfully navigate opportunities and threats as well as potential business models, to secure their place in the ecosystem. Overall, the endless amount of use cases shows that private networks will continue to drive this surge in demand over the next decade.