Colin Mc Hugo

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Colin Mc Hugo
Security Engineer Manager & CEO at Quantum Infinite Solutions Group Ltd.
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New 5G Flaw Exposes Priority Networks to Location Tracking and Other Attacks

March 26, 2021

New analysis into 5G architecture has uncovered a safety flaw in its community slicing and virtualized community features that may very well be exploited to permit knowledge entry and denial of service assaults between totally different community slices on a cell operator’s 5G community.

AdaptiveMobile shared its findings with the GSM Affiliation (GSMA) on February 4, 2021, following which the weaknesses have been collectively designated as CVD-2021-0047.

5G is an evolution of present 4G broadband mobile community expertise, and is predicated on what’s referred to as a service-based structure (SBA) that gives a modular framework to deploy a set of interconnected community features, permitting customers to find and authorize their entry to a plethora of providers.

The community features are additionally liable for registering subscribers, managing periods and subscriber profiles, storing subscriber knowledge, and connecting the customers (UE or consumer tools) to the web by way of a base station (gNB). What’s extra, every community perform of the SBA can supply a selected service however on the identical time can even request a service from one other community perform.

One of many methods the core SBA of the 5G community is orchestrated is thru a slicing mannequin. Because the title signifies, the concept is to “slice” the unique community structure in a number of logical and impartial digital networks which might be configured to fulfill a selected enterprise goal, which, in flip, dictates the standard of service (QoS) necessities obligatory for that slice.

5G QoS Network Slicing Vulnerability

Moreover, every slice within the core community consists of a logical group of community features (NFs) that may be solely assigned to that slice or be shared amongst totally different slices.

Put in a different way, by creating separate slices that prioritize sure traits (e.g., giant bandwidths), it allows a community operator to carve out options which might be personalized to explicit industries.

For example, a cell broadband slice can be utilized to facilitate leisure and Web-related providers, an Web of Issues (IoT) slice can be utilized to supply providers tailor-made to retail and manufacturing sectors, whereas a standalone low latency slice may be designated for mission-critical wants similar to healthcare and infrastructure.

“The 5G SBA affords many safety features which incorporates classes discovered from earlier generations of community applied sciences,” AdaptiveMobile said in a safety evaluation of 5G core community slicing. “However however, 5G SBA is a totally new community idea that opens the community as much as new companions and providers. These all result in new safety challenges.”

5G QoS Network Slicing Vulnerability

Based on the cell community safety agency, this structure not solely poses contemporary safety considerations that stem from a must assist legacy features but additionally from a “huge enhance in protocol complexity” as a consequence of migrating from 4G to 5G, and within the course of opening the door to a mess of assaults, together with —

  • Malicious entry to a slice by brute-forcing its slice differentiator, an non-compulsory worth set by the community operator for distinguishing between slices of the identical kind, thereby permitting a rogue slice to realize unauthorized data from a second slice like Entry and Mobility Administration Perform (AMF), which maintains data of a consumer tools’s location.
  • Denial-of-service (DoS) in opposition to one other community perform by profiting from a compromised slice.

The assaults hinge on a design quirk that there are not any checks to make sure that the slice id within the signaling layer request matches that used within the transport layer, thus allowing an adversary linked to the 5G operator’s SBA by means of a rogue community perform to pay money for the core community in addition to the community slices.

It is value noting that the signaling layer is the telecommunication-specific application layer used for exchanging signaling messages between community features which might be situated in numerous slices.

5G QoS Network Slicing Vulnerability

As countermeasures, AdaptiveMobile recommends partitioning the community into totally different safety zones by making use of signaling safety filters between totally different slices, the core community, and exterior companions, and the shared and not-shared community features, along with deploying a signaling layer safety answer to safeguard in opposition to knowledge leakage assaults that leverage the lacking correlation between layers.

Whereas the present 5G structure does not assist such a safety node, the research suggests enhancing the Service Communication Proxy (SCP) to validate the correctness of message codecs, match the data between layers and protocols, and supply load-related performance to forestall DoS assaults.

“This type of filtering and validation method permits division of the community into safety zones and safeguarding of the 5G core community,” the researchers stated. “Cross-correlation of assault data between these safety community features maximizes the safety in opposition to refined attackers and permits higher mitigations and sooner detection whereas minimizing false alarms.”

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