What the Drive Towards Network Functions Virtualization Means for Telecom Security - HyTrust

What the Drive Towards Network Functions Virtualization Means for Telecom Security

The telecommunications industry is currently facing a challenge. The number and range of mobile devices being used by the general public has rapidly risen and shows no signs of stopping. Each of these devices needs to access networks for voice and multimedia data and today’s consumer expects lightning-fast connections. However, the quality of data being transferred over these networks has begun to drop due to sheer volume. But what can be done? How can the telecom industry adapt?

Traditional telecom networks are built with complex, inflexible, and costly hardware that require regular maintenance. This is far from an ideal situation when considering the above scenario. In order to address this issue, telecommunications industries are now looking towards cloud computing and virtualization in increasing numbers. The flexibility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of a virtualized platform can offer enormous benefits to the service providers, such as boosted profits and room for greater innovation. This sounds like a win-win.

But with these cost savings come new threats. When it comes to virtualization, cost efficiency often comes at the expense of solid security. Just as the switch to virtualized computer systems led to a new threat paradigm, virtualizing telecom networks will change the threat landscape and require new ways of looking at security.

Telecom to Get a Boost from Virtualization

At last year’s Mobile World Congress, network functions virtualization (NFV) was one of the main topics of discussion, and with good reason. The telecom industry has long since realized that they need to make changes in their infrastructure to support and manage enormous amounts of data without breaking the bank.

NFV promises to do just that. NFV can lower telecom carrier costs, increase efficiency, and improve productivity by separating network functions from proprietary hardware and then consolidating those functions as virtualized applications on a server. This move away from hardware means that NFV can also benefit smaller businesses a great deal by providing them access to applications which they couldn’t previously afford to access on their limited budgets.

How Virtualization Will Change Telecom

Virtualization will play a significant role in changing the way telecom networks are built and operated in today’s market. NFV hopes to virtualize some of the more commonly used network elements, such as mobile core networks, deep packet inspection (DPI), session border controllers (SBC), security appliances (firewalls, IDS/IPS, SSL VPNs), server load balancers, and WAN acceleration. Service providers hope that a large-scale adoption of NFV will dramatically reduce the cost of building and maintaining networks, making it a game changer for the telecom industry. Many well-known service providers like Ericsson, Juniper, Huawei, Radisys, Intel/WindRiver, and NEC are working towards introducing NFV to their customers.

According to a report by Heavy Reading Insider, virtualization will drive a significant market evolution in major telecommuting sectors in the year 2015. As one might expect, the telecom sector stands to benefit a great deal in terms of profitability, increased revenues, and reduced costs by moving to the virtual platform. Among the key findings, some changes to watch for through the remainder of 2015 include:

  • Changes in revenue streams and ways of working;
  • Virtualization and LTE will be the main driving force for telecom industries;
  • New players like datacenter specialists, device vendors, and IT providers will have an increased presence in the telecom market;
  • Increased revenues and reduced costs, ensuring a profitable future.

Virtualization Threats Must Be Addressed for Gains to Be Made

Although NFV offers a number of substantial benefits, the technology is still in its infancy. A large number of vendors and service providers are still conducting research on this technology to determine if it can truly become a mainstream product. As we know, with great benefits come great risks. Virtualized platforms are vulnerable to security threats, so organizations need to focus on this potential risk in order to build robust and secure operating platforms.

The threat of one person (or script or automation tool) compromising the command and control of an entire telecom network could be catastrophic, with repercussions far beyond the confines of an enterprise or a service provider’s customer base. Without securing the control plane (i.e., with HyTrust-like functionality), NFV will be hamstrung by concerns that virtualizing the network will in fact make it less secure and more prone to catastrophic downtime. Just as virtual computing learned to focus on securing the hypervisor, telecom will have to focus on securing the control plane if NFV is going to become an industry standard.

HyTrust Keeps You Secure in the Cloud

When moving to virtualized networks, it’s crucial that your organization remains protected from outside threats and vulnerabilities. Advanced monitoring and logging can help your business quickly identify threats so you can execute a rapid response. HyTrust’s tools offer strong encryption, efficient key management, and stronger access control policies. HyTrust also offers security for critical components in a virtualized network by implementing Two-Factor Authentication, which acts as an additional security blanket along with user’s login credentials.

HyTrust’s CloudControl and DataControl provide high-level data security and comply with data security requirements. They enable hypervisor configuration hardening by using pre-built assessment frameworks or custom, user-defined templates. They also allow proactive monitoring of hosts, eliminate configuration drift, and ensure ongoing compliance according to a defined standard, without the need for manual effort or scripts. Contact us to find out more about how HyTrust can help your organization grow while remaining secure.

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