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4G Networks and Security

BY: Chris Thompson | Category: Technology | Submitted: 2011-04-19 18:27:10
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Article Summary: "New upcoming wireless technology known as 4G has a great deal of positive outcomes associated with it. However certain measures must be taken to ensure substantial protection from the malicious activity on the network..."


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Wireless 4th Generation Networks and Securities

Technology is the fastest-growing element on the planet. This is easily explained by digesting the concept created by Intel's co-founder, Gordon Moore. Moore stated, "The number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months." (Moore) This ideology has held true over the last 40 years and quickly formed into something known as Moore's Law.

Although this "law" was created for transistors, the same applies wireless technology. Over the last decade wireless technology has skyrocketed, and statistics show that in 2000 there was about 38 percent of the population in the U.S. with wireless technology at their fingertips, where as last year in 2010 subscribers grew to an exponential 93 percent (Martin). As far as cellular towers are concerned, in 2000 only 95,733 existed across the nation, and 10 years later, that number has grown to 251,618; a 163% increase ("Cell Sites"). Do you remember what network speeds were like in 2000? If you guessed 0.006 MB/s, you're correct. In 2010, that number has grown to a debatable, but still factual, 100 MB/s with wireless 4th Generation (4G) network speeds.

As of today in April 2011 the most popular networking standard is 3rd Generation Telecommunications, or 3G. Using the universal mobile telecommunications system (UTMS) in correspondence with 3GPP or the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, 3G runs its minimum requirements of 200 killobits per second. In more recent 3G releases, such as 3.5G and 3.75G also dubbed high-speed packet access (HSPA), the user can receive up to 14 Megabytes per second. In order to obtain these data rates a method known as code division multiple access (CDMA) is utilized, enabling multiple users to transmit data simultaneously over a single channel. In addition to 3G networks' correspondence with UTMS and 3GPP surfaces another popular standard that is fueling the 4G movement, Long Term Evolution (LTE) Advanced. Denoted as 3.9G for being beyond 3G speeds, but not quite up to the requirements of 4G, LTE is proving to a substantial "gap filler" for the 4G anticipation, with networks bandwidth ranging from 20 MHz to 100 MHz.

Although these new standards have substantially increased their data transfer speeds in the last few years, cell phone companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have even bigger plans for the mobile community. With the new upcoming generation of wireless standards known as 4G, people have the capability of achieving a minimum of 1 Gbit/s, ensuring ultimate broadband network communication. This generous increase of network bandwidth is greatly in accordance with the increasing popularity of websites such as YouTube and Facebook that require a significant amount of bandwidth to run at an optimal level. That being said, what is the "optimal level" in today's world? Our generation relies on having instant communication everywhere you go, no matter what. In a world where you can perform a search on your cellular device and have instant results has become the optimal level.

Just the same as all other generations of wireless technology, a certain criteria must be met before a network can be dubbed 4G compatible. First off, a 4G network must meet the data transfer rate requirements of 1 Gigabit per second while in a fixed position, and 100 Megabytes per second if moving at high-speeds, such as in a train or airplane, or even a car. Another aspect of 4G technologies is a secure, completely IP-based network meaning every single person connected to the 4G networks will have their own IP address, also known as an "All IP Network" (AIPN). The image below is an example of an IP based 4G network. (Govil, 272)

In accordance with this new advancement in cellular technology certain security measures must be taken to ensure the end user is protected from various malicious network attacks, as well as retain their data quality and integrity while being provided with the most satisfactory conditions available.

There are a number of benefits, more than just network speed, that accompany the 4G advancements. One major benefactor is the escalated level of customization by the end user. This basically entails his/her own preferences of quality of service (QoS), as well as their flexibility to connect through any wireless device, including laptops and PDAs. Shown here is an image illustrating how one device can connect to virtually any network. With 4G providing IP-based integrity, even a person's video chats possess an IP address while over video, also known as VoIP. In adherence to the 4G requirements of 1Gbit/s while stationary, the user can seamlessly download video, music, and picture files with virtually no delay (Gobjuka).

One major impact on 4G networks is the indisputable requirement for a secure mobile device. With mobility and handover issues associated with this type of network, it is essential for the organization to provide a multitude of security tools to protect their machines, including the increased necessity for authentication.

With such a large assortment of network options, there lie an increasing number of vulnerabilities associated with the user's device. Special considerations need to be taken to ensure privacy for the user. With the seamless connectivity of multiple technologies it is important to not have any information compromised when a user's device jumps from one network to another.

Authentication from the user is very important and has proven to be a sufficient security method, versus the standard pre-authentication method, which had issues such as denial-of-service vulnerabilities. In addition to user-authentication, network authentication can prove to be another source of security on a mobile wireless network. Using network authentication greatly reduces the chance of having a man-in-the-middle attack. Networks that use the 802.11 wireless protocol, such as personal home routers, have the most difficult authentication methods that utilize a 3-way-handshake protocol as well as dynamic key creation. In addition to these authentication methods, there are ways data integrity can be protected. Key authentication has always proven to be a sufficient security protocol, however with so many transitions into different networks, having these network adapters should allow for faster key re-authentication on a more durable cryptographic system (Rio).
In a nutshell, 4G environments are being created for the intentions of allowing everyone unlimited access anytime, anywhere, however there need to be a variety security precautions taken to protect from network vulnerabilities in order to fully experience all that 4G technology has to offer.

About Author / Additional Info:
http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=4579909&isnumber=4579840
http://www.krio.me/security-in-4g-and-other-mobile-networks/

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