5G network security flaw exposed

AdaptiveMobile Security, an Irish vendor of mobile network security, has disclosed a major security flaw in 5G network slicing and virtualised network functions architectures. The vulnerability allows data access and DDoS attacks between different network slices on a mobile operator’s 5G network, exposing enterprise customers to cyberattack.

AdaptiveMobile Security examined 5G core networks that contain both shared and dedicated network functions and found that when a network has these ‘hybrid’ network functions supporting several slices there is a lack of mapping between the application and transport layer identities.

AdaptiveMobile Security uncovered three main attack scenarios based on the flaw which cannot currently be mitigated:

  • user data extraction – in particular location tracking
  • denial of service against another network function
  • access to a network function and related information of another vertical customer.

A hacker comprising an edge network function connected to the operator’s service-based architecture could exploit this flaw to gain access to both the operator’s core network and the network slices of other enterprises. Operators and their customers risk the loss of sensitive location data which would allow user location tracking, the loss of  charging-related information and even interruption to the operation of the slices and network functions themselves.

AdaptiveMobile Security says the risk level from the vulnerability is currently low because few enterprises are currently using network slicing and it is currently working with the GSMA, major operators and standards bodies to address the issue. It has produced a whitepaper detailing the issue which can be downloaded here.