Contemporary society cannot function effectively without the telecommunication industry. Telecom companies make communication possible on the local and global scales, whether through cables or airwaves, the TV or the Internet, through wires or wirelessly. However, the whole industry, including cable companies, satellite companies, telephone operators, and Internet service providers, currently experiences unprecedented security threats. Hackers take advantage of the high bandwidth and increased speed to attack the network, making telecom security a pressing issue. Let’s examine the most common security threats affecting this sector and determine whether solutions are available to address them.
Top Security Threats
Telecommunication companies rely heavily on technology, so they inevitably suffer from the technological weaknesses and loopholes, which allow attackers to steal the data and disrupt services.
Telecom companies often become the victims of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. According to the 2021 data, a third of all DDoS attacks in the world target communication providers. This type of attack reduces the target’s network capacity and disrupts the availability of service. DDoS attacks can also result in personal information leakage and significant financial losses for the affected companies. Although DDoS attacks are becoming more sophisticated, so do the methods of protection against this security threat. DDoS protection software can help companies inspect traffic and identify threats while using a VPN by customers can further decrease the risk of attacks.
Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the leading trends in the telecom industry. As the number of devices used by consumers is growing exponentially, telecommunication companies need to ensure that they have effective attack prevention in place. Hijackers can target various devices, from industrial tools to smartphones, using routing attacks, Sybil attacks, RFID interference, and other strategies. To prevent these issues, telecom companies should invest in and expand the capabilities of their GTP and SCTP protocols and ensure that connection between devices and the network is always authenticated. The use of TLS/DTLS Secure Access Modules may also help mitigate IoT security threats.
The telecom industry is also a target of Domain Name Security (DNS) attacks. In 2019, about 83% of telecom companies reported becoming victims of DNS attacks. DNS attacks cause serious network disruptions and economic damages. A DNS attack can destroy a business in the most severe cases (e.g., when customers’ sensitive data is stolen). Using adapted DNS security solutions, applying countermeasures, and effective and timely DNS transaction analytics may protect the companies and customers from this attack. Investment in developing high-performing DNS servers can also pay off, as it will increase the reliability and security of services and customers’ trust.
BGP Route Hijacking
BGP route hijacking, also referred to as IP hijacking or prefix hijacking, has been a growing concern recently. It involves attackers corrupting Internet routing tables to reroute the traffic. As a result, they can steal the data or cause a significant disruption in its operations. This problem has already affected many telecom companies around the globe, including Google, TwitchTV, Apple, European telecommunication networks, Telstra, etc. If not addressed effectively, it can disrupt private and public services’ work and serve as a powerful digital weapon in the cyberwar.
The IT industry has already attempted to introduce solutions. For example, Cloudflare launched an “Is BGP Safe Yet?” service, allowing users to ensure that their ISP is adequately protected. Prefix Filtering is another viable solution to the problem, which can be flexibly used depending on the needs. Moreover, the widespread adoption of the Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI) might have addressed the problem once and for all, but it is an expensive and time-consuming task.
Although security threats are inevitable and affect almost every telecom business, there are ways to protect the companies’ operations and reputation and provide smooth and reliable services. Each of the suggested measures may seem expensive and resource-demanding, but they are essential for minimizing multiple security threats and ensuring the stability of the telecommunication industry.