Singapore is on track to become the largest adopter of 5G by 2025[1] in Southeast Asia, propelled by Singapore’s Smart Nation vision to stay ahead as a futuristic city and improve the life of its citizens.

There is no question that 5G is pivotal to bringing the nascent vision of “true” smart cities from aspiration to actualization. However, the lack of a holistic security implementation framework in most Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the network it interacts with, is an Achilles heel for many enterprises.

I believe that embedding a ‘Security First’ approach practically in 5G-enabled smart city applications can benefit citizens and enterprises greatly. While critical infrastructure security policies exist today, it is becoming increasingly important to develop a practical and holistic security implementation framework of IoT and 5G-enabled applications.

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‘Security First’ approach to 5G-enabled smart city solutions

In my assessment, I have identified six core security objectives for a ‘Security First’ approach. All ecosystem partners – governments, enterprises, software providers, device manufacturers, energy providers, and network service providers – have a part to play and must integrate solutions that abide by these objectives:

  1. Security Readiness: Understand and pay attention to technology vulnerabilities, geo-political threat attack surfaces and internal threats to stay ahead.

    Accenture can help develop a security governance with a clear road map and operating model with prioritized security initiatives required to help mitigate any vulnerabilities and threats. Using global industry standards for 5G and security, our 5G architecture embeds security by design and complies to minimum security baselines for resiliency.

  2. Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) and 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Compliance: Adhere to local critical infrastructure security policies and ensure your network complies to 3GPP or GSMA controls for key technologies such as Cloud, Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT), edge and network slices.

    Accenture can help develop a security governance with a clear road map and operating model with prioritized security initiatives required to help mitigate any vulnerabilities and threats. Using global industry standards for 5G and security, we develop a 5G architecture that embeds security by design and complies to minimum security baselines for resiliency.

  3. Data Integrity: The future of cities depends on reliable sources of data and measures must be taken to minimize risk for your organization.

    Accenture implements a centralized Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution with managed services to preserve data integrity.

  4. Data Trust and Confidentiality: As data that is collected, stored and analyzed may include sensitive personal or financial information, it is important that there are policies in place to protect it and prevent the unauthorized disclosure of such information.

    Accenture’s authentication and authorization management solutions (with Certificate Authority based digital certificate life cycle management) are integrated into the security ecosystem. This ensures network security and data is shared only with authorized parties.

  5. Overall Accountability: System users must be held responsible for their actions. Every system interaction with sensitive information should be logged and associated with a specific user. These logs should not be easy to forge and have reliable integrity protection.

    A centralized IAM solution will also help enterprises ensure proper authentication, authorization and veracity of humans and things that are accessing the applications.

  6. System Availability: Without actionable, real-time, and reliable data access, the future of smart cities cannot thrive. It is important to understand how the information is collected, stored, and shared, and to integrate robust security solutions to avoid adverse effects on system availability.

    Accenture adopts multi-layered defense through micro-segmentation, zero trust controls, perimeter and end-point security controls.
    Tips for building a secure 5G-enabled smart city
    • Security is an enabler of enterprise 5G and should not be an afterthought.
    • With cloudification and virtualization, enterprise and 5G networks are converging and so is security.
    • Security needs to be reimagined and embedded at the heart of design as well as deployment.
    • A threat-based approach is the right mindset, instead of risk or compliance-based approach.

    Failure to do so may not only destroy your brand’s reputation but cause significant operational impacts as well.

    Cyber resiliency and 5G must work hand in hand

    In the world of smart cities, ensuring enhanced cybersecurity readiness, resilience and responsiveness are key to success. Our broad cybersecurity knowledge and deep industry expertise allow us to develop tailored cybersecurity services to help protect your business end to end.

    Our ‘Security First’ approach can help enterprises deploy and operate 5G networks in a secure environment. Pre-built governance strategies are essential for securing systems, applications, data and identities, and a well-documented incident response plan.  

    Lastly, I believe cyber resiliency and 5G must work hand in hand to ensure successful smart city initiatives and this requires four minimum security elements:  

    1. Visibility of end-to-end security measures
    2. Security analytics to identify threats, risks, system abnormalities and network behavior
    3. Zero trust controls and micro-segmentation, to isolate the crown jewels against threats
    4. Coordination among all crucial actors in the ecosystem, to ensure that security is baked into every process

    Please get in touch if you would like to learn more about our 5G and cybersecurity solutions.

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    Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors.

    Copyright © 2021 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture and its logo are registered trademarks of Accenture

    [1] https://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/singapore-telcos-could-make-up-to-704m-from-5g-by-2025-report

    Ganesh Narayanan

    Senior Principal – Security, Southeast Asia

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