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The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G

White Paper
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
4G LTE Security Roadmap and Reference Design
By Tyson Macaulay
VP Global Telco Strategy, McAfee
Table of Contents
Executive Summary
A True and Cautionary Tale
A safe outcome
Multiple Market Forces
Increasing malware
Social engineering 5
Unprotected devices
Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and
over-the-top (OTT) content
Voice goes digital
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Threat 1: Wireless APN flooding
Threat 2: Mobile to mobile attacks
Threat 3: eNodeB/Femtocell/Microcell compromise
Threat 4: Machine to machine fragility
Threat 5: Lawful intercept compliance
Threat 6: VOLTE service assurance
Threat 7: Content and media delivery
4G Security Reference Design
Perimeter security for broadband wireless networks
DNS blacklisting service
Value-added services
Virtualized infrastructure security
About the Author
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Executive Summary
The transition to a broadband wireless service portfolio ushers in new vulnerabilities and threats to telecommunications
and service provider organizations. As carriers deploy wireless Internet technologies to enable long term evolution (LTE)
networks, attackers can use old Internet techniques to new effect through these broadband data services, targeting
mobile devices and infrastructure.
Most carriers and service providers are fully occupied with the task of switching from circuit-switch, third-generation
wireless (3G) technologies to fully Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled, fourth generation (4G), end-to-end technologies. They
aren’t fully aware of or focused on malicious actors. Why should they be? Mobile threats to date have largely been
reported in relation to “smart” devices and user data, not operator infrastructure. Additionally, many service providers are
still planning 4G or are in the deployment stage with limited 4G operational experience.
Devices are simply the most obviously vulnerable aspect of the 4G network—the weakest link. LTE introduces new “weak
links” throughout carrier infrastructure, as well as greater bandwidth and newly connected devices to exploit. Operators
must take steps now to harden their nascent LTE infrastructure, to mitigate risk, gain operational efficiencies, and
maximize potential revenue:
Early action—designing security into the LTE deployment—will help preserve 4G bandwidth for legitimate uses, including
the reliable service required for Voice over IP on LTE (VOLTE).
Proactive security costs less to deploy and manage than post-rollout bolt-ons.
Early, planned actions will alleviate service disruptions, whether caused directly by a security attack or indirectly by the
need to take infrastructure offline for a security workaround.
• The
security capabilities built into LTE can also enable operating savings, which can offset deployment costs.
• Security
systems function as dual-purpose, value-added service offerings, whose revenue can add to the bottom line and
increase subscriber stickiness.
This paper provides a detailed review of seven threats that take on unique profiles within 4G networks. It also offers a
security reference architecture to efficiently counter these threats with minimal cost or service disruption.
A True and Cautionary Tale
One day, an operator activated a new mobile broadband network across a large geography. Over the next few months,
traffic more than tripled. Cybercriminals were consuming the spectrum in both directions as they scanned and attacked
devices. Angry users and skeptical regulators complained that the much-vaunted, new spectrum wasn’t delivering the
expected performance. The carrier faced a series of serious risks: penalties and fines for false advertising, subscriber
dissatisfaction and resulting “churn,” operational costs way outside plans and projections, and an opportunity for rival
wireless services.
Figure 1. Attack traffic flooded the operator’s new wireless broadband network.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
A safe outcome
Through traffic and log inspection, the carrier discovered that more than half of the new traffic was coming from attacks.
The remedy was an immediate deployment of network security gateways (firewall and intrusion prevention systems) that
could monitor for and drop this traffic.
Any emergency rollout of equipment into an active network is a perilous and unusual move for any service provider.
However, in this case, the aggregated business risks outweighed the risk of service disruption caused by an emergency
deployment of security equipment into the network. The carrier’s swift action allowed it to recover 60 percent of its 4G
spectrum and backhaul network, reduce capital and operating expenses by an estimated 20 percent to 40 percent, and
delay network and equipment purchases that required large un-forecast expenses.
Multiple Market Forces
The preceding example showcases the danger of 4G service activation without an adequate 4G security architecture. It
happened because, like other operators, the carrier thought about 4G in terms of legitimate subscriber traffic and its
impact on the equipment and processes in the wireless, backhaul, and core network.
However, the voyage to 4G will be buffeted by many other external forces. In addition to a litany of new devices and
services that go beyond traditional handsets, criminals will capitalize on the large, new attack surface presented by wireless
broadband (compared to 3G data services). Their efforts will be enabled by the vulnerabilities and lack of maturity that come
with new and disruptive technologies like 4G.
Increasing malware
Data-capable smartphones and tablets paired with large, wireless data pipes now attract significant attention from
cybercriminal networks, today’s “organized crime.” From a negligible baseline, malware-based threats to mobile devices
were up 4,000 percent in 2012 and expanded a further 30 percent in the first three months of 2013, according to
McAfee® Labs™. 1
Malicious software developers now readily take techniques developed for personal computers and adapt them to the
limited footprint and technologies of mobile devices. For example, ZITMO stands for “Zeus in the Mobile,” a reuse of
the widely adopted Zeus toolkit that makes malware programming easy for non-technical criminals. ZITMO perpetrates
financial fraud by hijacking browsers and SMS authentication techniques.
Total Mobile Malware Samples in the Database
Figure 2. The explosion of Android devices has enabled an explosion in mobile malware.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Beyond mobile malware, “old-fashioned” attacks on more conventional operating systems remain very effective, because
many such devices (desktop, laptops) are connecting through wireless broadband through a process of “tethering.”
Tethering through USB 4G “sticks,” or even through phones, places these more conventional (and sometimes not really
mobile) devices in the broadband Internet. In places where fixed line broadband is not available, wireless broadband will fill
that market gap and introduce this attack opportunity.
Social engineering
Possibly more dangerous even than the spike in mobile malware is the spike in “SMiShing” and “phishing” attacks
targeting the social relationships and curiosity of mobile users. These attacks involve malicious messages sent as emails
or text messages to be consumed on the small screens and limited viewing areas of many mobile, smart devices. The
message dupes a user into clicking a link, installing an app, or going to a website. The result is frequently that identity and
credentials are handed over by the user to the attackers willingly but unknowingly; and serious fraud is the outcome.
Unprotected devices
Today, less than 5 percent of “smart,” mobile devices run security software, and smart devices represent only a small
fraction of mobile devices as a whole. This is in part because basic handsets (or “feature phones”) with limited capabilities
still make up 82 percent of handsets on mobile networks worldwide.2 However, this profile is changing fast as smartphone
prices drop rapidly. Some places in Asia are transitioning from feature phones to smartphones at rates approaching
25 percent per year3—meaning smart devices will be the only type of mobile devices within 4 years.
Another reason for the lack of adoption of security software is user cost sensitivity. Prepaid users account for more than 85
percent of mobile devices worldwide.4 The perceived value of a monthly premium for security software is limited when the
user’s typical monthly top-up is just $10.
Smart device customers are the ones driving carriers to invest in LTE. Service providers with saturated markets want to sell
mobile apps and data services to smartphone and tablet users. “In 2012, a fourth-generation (4G) connection generated
19 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection. Although 4G connections represent only 0.9 percent of
mobile connections today, they already account for 14 percent of mobile data traffic.”5
Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and over-the-top (OTT) content
New apps and services are also connecting new categories of embedded wireless devices to create a rapidly evolving
“Internet of Things,” providing growth and revenue opportunities for carriers in the face of declining margins in established
lines of business. These machine-to-machine systems attach to networks (including the Internet) in many ways, but
wireless networks often present an optimal form of connectivity, enabling: remote industrial control systems (ICS); location
and tracking of transportation and logistics; broadband delivery of third-party video and gaming content; wireless
thermostats; health applications and services; innovative home automation; and much more. Typically built with limited
power, processing, and memory resources, these devices require specialized security. Attackers will target such underprotected M2M systems to disrupt critical infrastructure or commit fraud.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Voice goes digital
Already, 3G and 3.5G wireless networks have leapfrogged PSTN/twisted pair networks to service rural communities, especially
in the Asia Pacific, Latin American, and African regions. Access points inside the home provide the local network interface, and
LTE networks are being deployed to backhaul the data traffic.
Figure 3. A 4G Reference Design (with 3G fall back).
While initially providing data capacity and leaving voice service to older 3G technologies, LTE won’t remain a data-only
network for long. It has a planned upgrade and migration path to support voice and data services as one. As voice services
transition to all digital VOLTE, the data network will also be the voice network. All assets on the network will be running
on top of Internet Protocol. Eventually, there will be no fallback to analog, circuit switched networks for even basic voice
services, while many of the applications in the Internet of Things will not ever function on such legacy networks.
The conclusion should be clear. We are facing growth in malware and increased threats targeting poorly-protected devices,
increasing device and service diversity and sensitivity, and critical service dependency on 4G availability. These trends all
justify the effort and cost of making LTE networks not just highly efficient and available, but also secure.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
The changes specific to 4G permit seven unique variations on older attacks. By understanding the nature of these threats
and vulnerabilities, carriers and service providers can act to mitigate them.
Threat 1: Wireless APN flooding
The expanding bandwidth of 4G provides a larger attack surface for cybercriminals. The dribble of data through a 24 kb–
256 kb 2G and 3G wireless network becomes a flood of data with 3-150 Mbit 4G networks. In the absence of aggressive
countermeasures, criminal activities will consume so much of this new bandwidth that users who have paid to upgrade to
4G service will get 2G speeds, as was illustrated in our earlier example, Figure 1.
Figure 4 illustrates the attackers’ automated probing and scanning software and the traffic from “enslaved” devices
that can quickly monopolize core bandwidth. These actions can flood the wireless architecturally private network (APN)
that connects the mobile devices of the 4G network to the Internet. The attacks can consume the “last mile” of scarce,
wireless capacity (radio frequencies are physically limited assets—you cannot add more to get more capacity as with fiber
or copper wire) and degrade service levels.
Figure 4. Attacks into a mobile network.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Threat 2: Mobile to mobile attacks
Unlike 3G traffic that tunnels directly into the core IP network from the mobile device, 4G traffic is all IP-based and can
travel directly from mobile device to mobile device inside the wireless APN. This “peer to peer” (P2P) communication
reduces backhaul traffic. However, it also permits mobile-to-mobile (Mob2Mob) attacks.
A compromised mobile device can target and scan large numbers of other, locally adjacent, mobile devices at once,
consuming huge amounts of spectrum. This activity frequently goes unseen by the carrier because the wireless APN to
which the device connects has limited instrumentation and few internal security capabilities. In addition to siphoning off
spectrum, a mobile to mobile attack drains the battery on the victim’s device by maintaining a network connection. The
attack can also cause a denial-of-service (DoS) situation due to signaling congestion.
In an attack, the traffic may enter the network from one mobile device, perform an automated scan to look for devices
with similar IP numbers (indicating that the devices are on the same subnet), and then reach back out over the 4G network
to contact those devices. Once an attacker has exhausted one range of IP addresses, the attack moves to the next range
and begins to attack and infect the new devices. Unfortunately, the mere act of scanning for responding IP addresses of
other mobile devices can cause severe DoS due to the previously mentioned signaling congestion.
To avoid users being denied a connection, the operator would need to invest in better security or: more spectrum, more
LTE base stations (eNodes), and more backhaul network—which lead to more capital expense, more operating expense,
and more management complexity. The user may experience degraded service and also shoulder the burden of these
incremental costs over time. Inevitably, unhappy users lead to account churn.
Threat 3: eNodeB/Femtocell/Microcell compromise
As part of a cost containment strategy, many carriers are adopting virtualization technology at the radio edge, in the mobility
management infrastructure, and even in the networks.6 These commodity hardware platforms and commercial, off-the-shelf
software components have the ability to increase equipment utilization and drive down capital and operating costs.
However, virtualization in mobile networks may also introduce vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. For example, a
common eNodeB (4G basestation) may use a virtualized Linux operating system instead of a custom OS that has been
explicitly hardened—made secure—during development. If a virtualized eNodeB in the 4G network is successfully attacked
through a security flaw in the commercial hypervisor or operating system of application (radio) software, it may fail. Or,
worse, it may become a launching pad for attacks against the overall network management infrastructure behind it. Each
lost Femtocell hurts service availability for multiple users.
With its position in the IP core, loss or compromise of the management infrastructure takes down a much higher number
of users. It is the critical control point for the 4G network, accessible from Femtocells, Microcells, and eNodeB as a matter
of design.
It’s true that the management infrastructure generally shelters within the protection of the network, but this infrastructure
still needs to maintain open connections to service its users. If an attacker can get into a trusted device like an eNodeB, the
attacker can navigate to many other internal devices (such as the management infrastructure). Once they have penetrated
the network infrastructure, attackers have many ways to disrupt services or cause outages—outcomes that hurt revenue
and customer retention.
Specialized security optimized for hypervisors and other virtualization technology can mitigate the risks of attack. This
security adds comparatively minor costs relative to the costs of service degradation, as measured in lost usage revenues,
customer churn, service level breaches, and regulator audit and inquiry.
Threat 4: Machine to machine fragility
The Internet of Things (IOT) includes not only devices managed by people, such as desktops and smartphones, but semiautomated and fully automated devices that control physical outcomes, such as traffic lights, pipeline pressure sensors,
electrical grids, and water utilities. These devices are sometimes referred to as engaging in “machine-to-machine” (M2M)
networking. Traditionally, these fixed-function devices were built without much concern for security, since they used
limited, dedicated networks that were not connected to a public network.
Simple probing of the network (performed by vulnerability scanners as well as would-be attackers) can have adverse
effects by destabilizing controllers. Hindering potential mitigations, field-based sensors are resource-constrained, with
minimal memory and CPU to spare: there is no “room” to install firewalls or even basic security capabilities.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
In some cases, these devices run legacy, unpatched, and unpatchable operating systems. In most cases, even modern
M2M systems and devices are not intended to operate within the hostile and unhygienic environment of the Internet—yet
that is what 4G will become without adequate security.
When attacked, devices may just shut down—without warning, and sometimes without an easy or fast recovery.
Disruption of ICS devices can lead to costly civil emergencies or loss of life. This feared scenario is driving critical
infrastructure operators and the governments that regulate them to invest heavily in understanding and implementing
more rigorous security controls. For service providers looking to provide the networks for these burgeoning new M2M
applications, a degree of security and awareness related to mobile-on-mobile attacks will be a business enabler.
Threat 5: Lawful intercept compliance
National regulations and licensing rules typically obligate carriers to intercept many different types of traffic when they
receive a judicial order. In 4G networks, full interception for a given endpoint requires data collection at up to three
different places in the IP network, as seen in Figure 5:
Edge cache traffic—Create a system for managing copies of frequently requested content that is stored at the edge of
the network, so one copy can serve many endpoints without multiple downloads through the backhaul network.
• Voice
calls—Track and intercept voice over IP and voice over LTE traffic.
Internet traffic—Intercept “long haul” email and web interactions headed to and from the Internet directly (versus the
edge cache).
Government regulators expect carriers to solve this problem before LTE services go live. Actually, regulators don’t necessarily
possess any awareness of LTE or 4G network improvements. They simply require that judicial orders are fulfilled. The problem
of “how” is largely left to the service provider to figure out.
Additionally, lawful access requests typically come with precious little compensation for service providers, so the more efficient
and elegant the solutions, the better! Designing this interception, monitoring, and collection capability into the relevant
points of the network will allow you to preserve your network compliance with lawful access requests and judicial orders.
Figure 5. Compliance requires support for multiple lawful access intercept points.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Threat 6: VOLTE service assurance
So far, we have looked at the weaknesses of different devices that participate in the “data” side of the 4G network, which
leads to the open Internet and the wealth of data and services to be found there. However, there are other services that
will reside entirely inside the 4G network. These services represent substantial value to device users: namely, the voice
services and media services.
VOIP attack tactics that have evolved on the Internet can be used just as effectively against VOLTE, even if the VOLTE
infrastructure is not accessible from the Internet. Why? Because VOLTE infrastructure must be accessible from any mobile
device subscribing to voice services from the service provider. In this age of pre-paid accounts and phones purchased
and topped-up from automated kiosks, restricting only “friendly” and recognized subscribers to the VOLTE infrastructure
is difficult.
There are several thousand known attacks against VOIP protocols that range in outcome from capturing administrative
privileges to denial-of-service attacks. The impact on voice services to consumer and business users, as well as emergency
services that support police, fire, and medical resources, can be highly disruptive and dangerous and result in regulatory
issues. Because VOLTE traffic remains largely within the wireless APN, carriers need different monitoring equipment to
detect attacks as they move through the 4G infrastructure to the VOLTE service infrastructure.
Threat 7: Content and media delivery
Paid-for content and media, such as movies or music-on-demand, are another element of the 4G broadband ecosystem.
They present the potentiality of significant additional revenues to service providers, especially since up to 50 percent or
more of the data travelling over the Internet is already video, according to Cisco.7 Making video and music available from
localized portals connected directly to the wireless APN can offer performance and variety (due to formalized licensing and
digital rights management) that cannot be had from “over the top” services accessed via the Internet.
As was the case with VOLTE, unauthorized access and denial-of-service attacks can jeopardize expected revenue from
broadband media services, degrade services, and erode subscription and adoption rates. Carriers should expect attackers
to attempt to disrupt content delivery systems during peak times. Internet criminals, hacktivists, and other malicious parties
are adept at unleashing their attacks during major events—World Cup matches, elections, or royal weddings, for example.
Additionally, wholesale disruption of a broadcast service will be much more visible than a large number of usually
unrelated dropped calls. Subscribers who have paid a premium to watch a major sporting event will quickly share their
anger through social media. This damages your organization’s reputation and can dampen subscriptions and long-term
adoption of new services.
4G Security Reference Design
With this understanding of the threats facing 4G networks, we can now explore some appropriate countermeasures and
mitigations. We start by assuming that the 4G network endpoints—mobile devices and remote sensors—cannot be fully
“trusted.” Three issues make trust impossible: software control, physical control, and accountability of users.
• Software
control. Carriers can’t guarantee the presence of security software on these devices. Many devices can have
software removed or disabled by the user, while fixed-function devices don’t have the capacity to run traditional software.
• Physical
control. Criminals can get physical access to ports, memory, and interfaces on these devices, which make all
manner of tampering much easier to accomplish, including the introduction of malware.
• Accountability
of users. Most mobile devices on the network that are operated by people (smartphones, tablets, and
laptops) are pre-paid or pay-as-you-go. Many prepaid devices don’t require personal or account identification, so they
foster the anonymity of criminals.
While these factors could change over time, for now we must build the security necessary to counter the seven 4G threats
into the IP core and wireless networks, not the devices.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Perimeter security for broadband wireless networks
Today’s “first generation” protections for the broadband wireless network typically include firewalls or intrusion prevention
systems (IPS) that inspect traffic at the perimeter of the wireless APN: the border of the Internet and the wireless
infrastructure. The first threat, APN flooding, can be partially mitigated by upgrading these network gateways to include
reputation-based blocking and packet inspection.
IP reputation-based blocking can provide effective, real-time protection against attacks to mitigate the deluge of
unwanted traffic at the network’s edge. The accuracy of this approach greatly depends on access to reliable, communitybased reputation databases and how frequently the feeds are updated.
Packet inspection is an equally important approach to filtering malicious broadband traffic. It examines the header and
data components of a packet as it passes the gateway inspection point, searching for protocol non-compliance, viruses,
spam, intrusions, or other defined criteria.
McAfee network security solutions
Reputation-based blocking is a simple option to deploy with McAfee products. McAfee network
protections do a lookup of source and destination reputation through the McAfee Global Threat
Intelligence (GTI) network. Based on the previous activities of that source or destination, McAfee
provides a risk assessment that guides the firewall or IPS to drop or allow the network traffic
according to the policy or tolerance configured by the administrator.
In wireless APN flooding, when an Internet-attacker transmits high volumes of traffic to and from
high volumes of devices, the attacker’s IP address may be flagged as potentially risky in the McAfee
reputation database, or a rule-set within the firewall or IPS may simply flag such behavior as illicit and
“treat” traffic from that source. “Treating” may include anything from slowing the rate of flow to
dropping the packets outright.
You can easily define rules to tell a McAfee IPS to block this sort of traffic, including rules for
geolocation (which can let you block traffic with countries known to host malicious traffic). A
template generates alerts and reports the APNs in the attack, and this data stream can feed
the McAfee security information and event management system (SIEM) as well. McAfee threat
intelligence feeds also include message reputation and file reputation to facilitate advanced network
security functions and value-added services.
The choice of IPS versus firewall on the perimeter will depend on the use of network address
translation (NAT). If you do not use NAT or routing, then the McAfee IPS will deliver better
performance for this purpose, whereas firewalls will support NAT.
McAfee IPS sensors can be placed as needed at the perimeter and within the APN and roll up data
and monitoring processes in a common management and reporting environment.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Figure 6. Network security protecting the core combats APN flooding.
An IPS on the perimeter can only see attacks crossing the perimeter, to or from the wireless APN. It does not inspect traffic
within the APN (see Figure 6). “Second generation” wireless security adds instrumentation inside the APN to supplement
perimeter security and combat attacks that target and occur within the APN.
DNS blacklisting service
Reputation intelligence also enables another valuable—and potentially profitable—security control tactic called Domain
Name Server (DNS) blacklisting. When a user contacts a risky address (for instance, either directly or in
response to a phishing email, Domain Name Server (DNS) blacklisting rules can apply reputation to block or redirect the
request to a warning page or apply whatever treatment is considered appropriate by the service provider. DNS converts
a text stream ( to an Internet Protocol address ( that enables networks connections on the
Internet: DNS blacklisting allows providers to interrupt the text-to-IP address conversion by injecting a new IP address (like a
security warning web site) when a known bad IP address is about to be returned to a user who looked up
Some carriers are deploying DNS blacklisting at no extra charge as a basic service that reduces risky traffic. If you add
analytics and usage data, you can offer a value-added service that helps businesses reduce illicit traffic in the network and
support Internet usage rules and laws—such as family safety laws. Although determined and smart users can work around
DNS blacklisting, this service helps honest people avoid accidents, cons, and malice. DNS blacklisting also represents a
highly effective first line of cybersecurity for enterprises and a simple, cost-effective way to show due care.
The recommended security architecture places an IPS sensor with active threat intelligence between the serving gateway
(SGW) and packet data network gateway (PGW) (see Figure 7). This IPS sensor can decode the GPRS Tunneling Protocol (GTP)
unique to wireless networks. The IPS will identify infected or malicious devices that can roam onto the network and mobileto-mobile attacks that might otherwise not be identified. It can monitor and filter the traffic to help mitigate five of the seven
threats we have described:
Mobile to mobile attacks
eNodeB/Femtocell/Microcell attacks
Machine to machine (M2M) fragility
service assurance
Content and media delivery
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Preventing these attacks will help you avoid service degradation and outages that drive away customers and drive up costs.
As part of your service design, consider the ability to include automated reporting and alerting as a value-added service
to enterprise subscribers of wireless broadband (for instance, those buying large numbers of wireless identities to support
machine-to-machine systems).
Figure 7. Network security within the APN combats several 4G threats.
Value-added services
As with the DNS blacklisting service mentioned earlier, carriers and integrators also have the option of offering a menu
of tiered services related to IPS: basic service that uses built-in filtering malware, an upsell that includes reporting of
where and when traffic is headed from mobile devices, or premium policy management and security monitoring helpdesk
services. By deploying a multi-tenanted IPS sensor within the network, you can spread costs over multiple clients to achieve
economy of scale.
For instance, M2M applications riding on the network depend on service quality. You can help M2M application owners
monitor and pinpoint issues associated with devices in their M2M network. And an appliance that can monitor for unusual
traffic coming or going through the M2M network creates tangible evidence of due care associated with security controls,
in order to mitigate liability.
Virtualized infrastructure security
While the IPS sensor can provide inspection to block malicious traffic in the wireless APN, you also need to protect
the network components at the edge of the evolved and virtualized 4G network:8 for instance eNodeB basestations,
Femtocells, and microcells (small coverage basestations). By protecting against attacks starting at the radio edge, you
help preserve backhaul (up to 25 percent of wireless network operating cost) and implement controls supporting lawful
intercept compliance.
Femtocells and microcells will often be located in premises not controlled by the carrier. These devices will require
additional logical security to mitigate potential physical attacks on the terminal, in addition to attacks from malicious users
on the network.
For devices built with commercial hypervisors and running commercial operating systems like the Linux OS, mitigating
vulnerabilities associated with counterfeit, rogue, or “gray market” devices is another security challenge. This problem
must be addressed through a combination of hardware- and software-based security controls.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
Active images
Application whitelisting permits you to lock down the applications running on the radio-edge devices (such as eNodes and
Femtocells) so that only the desired, trusted applications can execute. This whitelisting, as well as file system encryption
and change monitoring, can help you prevent changes to the software on the edge, whether introduced by someone with
physical access to the device or by an attacker connecting over the network.
Application whitelisting is an appropriate security control on the network edge, because the images will change infrequently
(unlike, for instance, a personal PC, which changes constantly). Additionally, whitelisting does not rely on the ability to
constantly download new signature files, which loads the backhaul network with update traffic from potentially hundreds of
thousands or millions of edge devices.
Figure 8. New security software such as whitelisting can help protect virtualized equipment.
Through integration with event correlation and analysis engines, the edge IPS could be coordinated with the core network
IPS. By advising of new attack signatures and behaviors, discovery of an attack at either point (edge host or core network
sensor) can allow all protective devices to recognize, intercept, and drop traffic.
The concern about lawful intercept compliance can be met with controls that can intercept and report out traffic from
these different places on the network, as well as the VOLTE network. Data from IPS sensors positioned in these traffic
flows can be rolled up to a central location for monitoring. Carriers using a 3G fallback solution can collect this traffic at
the radio edge as before.
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
McAfee solutions for virtualization
The McAfee approach to virtualization security helps service providers optimize virtualized
resources and ease management of the virtualized systems that are becoming a core part of
carrier infrastructure. McAfee solutions overcome the unique concerns that arrive with virtualized
-Performance of shared platforms and resources
-Exploitation of shared platforms and resources
-Integrity of active and offline virtual machines
-Hypervisor security
-Security of the virtualized networking within the hypervisor
-Server imaging standards and patch levels
-Physical platform authentication
McAfee solutions include virtualized appliance versions of proven security products such as the
McAfee® Network Security Platform and McAfee Firewall Enterprise, as well as innovations like
McAfee Optimized for Virtualized Environments (MOVE AV) and McAfee VirusScan® Enterprise for
Offline Virtual Images. These specialized technologies make our best traditional antivirus and host
intrusion prevention capabilities work efficiently within virtualized deployments, with both hypervisoraware and hypervisor-agnostic options to preserve flexibility. In addition, McAfee products extend key
controls such as application whitelisting and change control into the virtual environment.
From a security perspective, the race to build and introduce 4G can be a headlong dash into the unknown. A proactive
implementation of security can help you win by stabilizing operational costs, maximizing infrastructure utilization,
and improving customer satisfaction. By understanding and mitigating the seven primary threats that come with the
bandwidth and Internet-oriented technologies of 4G, carriers and service providers can win the allegiance of customers
while supporting a healthy value-added service revenue stream.
The McAfee telecommunications service provider program has resources to help you design security into your 4G wireless
infrastructure. To learn more, visit McAfee Telecommunications Service Providers and
The 7 Deadly Threats to 4G
About the Author
Tyson Macaulay is the Vice President–Global Telecommunications Strategy for McAfee. Mr. Macaulay is accountable for the
definition of value-added solutions, business models and thought-leadership specifically for the global telecommunications
industry. Previously, Tyson served as the Security Liaison Officer at Bell Canada for eight years where he was responsible
for technical and operational risk management solutions for Bell’s largest enterprise clients. Prior to that he was Director
of Risk Management for a U.S. defense contractor in Ottawa–Electronic Warfare Associates (EWA 2001–2005), and
founded General Network Services (GNS 1996–2001). Tyson’s career began as research consultant for the Canadian
Federal Department of Communications (DoC) on information networking, where he helped develop the first generation
of Internet Services for the DoC in the early 1990’s.
About McAfee
McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), empowers service providers, businesses, the
public sector, and home users to safely experience the benefits of the Internet. The company delivers proactive and proven
security solutions and services for systems, networks, and mobile devices around the world. With its visionary Security
Connected strategy, innovative approach to hardware-enhanced security, and unique global threat intelligence network,
McAfee is relentlessly focused on keeping its customers safe.
McAfee Threats Report First Quarter 2013.
Source: Cisco Visual Network Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.
Sharma Consulting, 2012.
International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Source: Cisco Visual Network Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.
See IDF 2011–The Future,, and see Implementing SDN and
NFV with Intel® Architecture,
Note: Current 3G and current 4G infrastructure is not virtualized. These infrastructures are based on highly customized equipment. In the immediate
future, this infrastructure will be converted to run on commercial platforms (virtualized systems of hypervisors and operation systems) to achieve better
performance and flexibility.
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