The 3G network shutdown has already begun in Australia, with Vodafone kicking it off on December 15, 2023. Rival telco Telstra will switch off its 3G network on June 30, 2024, while Optus has set a date for the switch-off as September 2024.
How does the 3G shutdown impact security of businesses?
The 3G sunset has a considerable impact which includes business disruptions, regulatory compliance, increased vulnerabilities, data privacy concerns, and hacker exploitation. Threats arising due to outdated protocols could expose sensitive data and compromise the integrity of operations. Take a look:
- The 3G shutdown can expose systems to cyber threats as many businesses still use 3G networks. As they are phased out, security patches and updates for these systems may stop, giving hackers an excellent opportunity to attack.
- The process of transitioning from 3G to newer networks introduces vulnerabilities that cybercriminals may exploit. During this period, devices are generally more susceptible to attacks as they adapt to new network configurations.
- Older devices might not be compatible with 4G/LTE, so transitioning would be problematic.
- The encryption protocols used in 3G networks might not be as robust as those in newer networks. Inadequate encryption can lead to unauthorized access and interception of sensitive data.
- Phishing and social engineering have become common these days – cybercriminals con people by posing as representatives of network providers, giving phony upgrade alternatives or providing false information. Users could be tricked into installing malware or giving out personal details via social engineering attacks.
Why upgrade to 4G/LTE?
People are still asking – is 3G still available in Australia? It is, in limited capacity, but the 3G shutdown (Australia) for major telcos is imminent in 2024, so it is advisable to make the switch immediately. The 4G/LTE network offers a range of benefits that significantly enhance your security system’s performance and reliability:
4G technology provides quicker data transfer, ensuring that your information is transmitted within seconds.
All data transmitted over the network is encrypted, providing a secure communication channel.
Advanced authentication mechanisms are implemented to safeguard against unauthorized access.
As 3G networks are gradually being phased out, upgrading to 4G ensures that your device remains up-to-date and compatible with the latest advancements.
How to secure 4G networks?
Rather than researching the exact date of when will 3G be turned off in Australia, it is time to start preparing for the future:
Understand the risks
The first step to securing your 4G networks is to understand the risks and potential impact of a security breach. You should conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify the most critical assets, likely threats, and effective countermeasures. You should also monitor the network performance, traffic, and anomalies to detect any signs of malicious activity.
Encrypt the data
Encryption ensures that even if data is somehow accessed by unauthorized parties, it remains unreadable, while authentication verifies the identity and integrity of the devices and users. Strong encryption algorithms and keys are used to implement mutual authentication between the network elements and the devices.
Implement firewalls and VPNs
Implementing firewalls and VPNs (Virtual Private Network) are a must, in order to control the access the traffic of your 4G networks. Firewalls filter the incoming and outgoing traffic based on predefined rules and policies, and block any unauthorized or suspicious connections. VPNs create a secure channel between devices and the network, while encrypting data in transmit. You have to configure the firewalls and the VPNs according to the network requirements and the security standards.
Updating and patching software
There will inevitably be bugs and vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to compromise the network. You should regularly check for the latest updates and patches from the vendors and providers, and install them as soon as possible – they can easily fix these issues.
Users are generally the weakest link in the security chain, as they could fall victim to phishing, malware, or cyber attacks. Provide users with clear and simple guidelines on how to use the network safely and securely, and the process of reporting any incidents or issues.
Review and audit security measures
It is very important to review and audit the security of 4G networks consistently. Evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of security measures and policies, while identifying r weaknesses. Conduct regular audits and tests to verify the compliance and the performance of the network security, and make any necessary adjustments or improvements.
Security Features of 4G/LTE Upgrades
Authentication and Encryption
4G networks make use of mutual authentication between the user device and network. The device always verifies the network’s identity and vice-versa, via keys and certificates. Data transmitted over air interface is encrypted using strong encryption algorithms like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). This encryption ensures that even if data is intercepted, it remains unreadable without the decryption keys. There is another type of authentication where Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) or Universal Subscriber Identity Module (USIM) cards are used. They store cryptographic keys and play an integral role in ensuring no one gets access to the network except authorized users.
Robust key management protocols are used to securely handle encryption keys, ensuring their confidentiality and preventing unauthorized access to these critical keys.
Virtualization technologies separate different network services, preventing security breaches from spreading across the entire network if one segment is compromised.
Using Hash-based Message Authentication Code (HMAC), integrity protection is established, to ensure that the data being transmitted is authentic and hasn’t been tampered with. Device integrity lets only authorized and verified software components get loaded during the boot-up process, so no malicious code can be executed. Internet Protocol Security is also implemented for secure communication between network elements, thus providing a secure channel for data transmission within the LTE network.
Improved Privacy Protocols
It is necessary to protect location privacy of users; temporary identifiers are often used instead of static identifiers – these make it tougher to track a user’s movements. For subscriber identity privacy, temporary mobile subscriber identity (TMSI) and pseudonymization are used to hide the actual identity, thus reducing the risks associated with tracking.
Mobile networks implement firewalls and Intrusion Detection Systems for round-the-clock monitoring. They are used to control the traffic entering and exiting the network – you can detect and prevent unauthorized access attempts, malware, and other breaches. There are Access Control Lists too, which are created to specify which devices or users are allowed to access network resources, thus preventing unauthorized access.
Rest assured, 4G/LTE networks have protocols in place to support lawful interception. So if there is a chance of data breaches, authorities can monitor communications in compliance with legal requirements. If any threat is detected, they can intervene and take prompt action. When does 3G end in Australia? That is what everyone wants to know! But businesses and consumers have to start preparing beforehand. The former should begin talking to cybersecurity organizations and seek certifications for the upgraded network’s security measures. As of now, the 4G/LTE upgrades will be rolled out in phases for minimal disruptions, but dedicated customer support channels are being established to ensure a smooth transition. Businesses have to train network operators and support staff on the new security protocols and features, without further delay!