For the federal IT pro, IT modernization efforts are a top priority. It’s a priority reinforced through legislative requirements, from the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) to Data Center Optimization Initiatives (DCOI) to Cloud Smart. Additionally, interest from members of the legislative branch in IT modernization has only increased as a result of COVID-19.
As agencies continue to move toward modernization, a key component will be 5G, the next-generation mobile network promising higher bandwidth and lower latency. 5G sounds incredibly enticing, as 4G has a current maximum download speed of 100Mbps. This is 100 times slower than 5G, which can deliver 10Gbps.
For federal agencies, 5G can bring tremendous benefits, including the opportunity to gain unprecedented customer insights gleaned from real-time data from connected devices.
But it also brings increased complexity and security risks. For example, many agencies are underprepared to cope with the new levels of data they’ll need to capture, share, analyze, and store in near-real time and the security risks associated with the inability to use this data effectively.
How, then, can federal IT pros reap the benefits of 5G while bolstering the agency infrastructure to realize those benefits without consequence? The answer is to introduce a three-fold focus within the environment:
1. Monitor the network to gain visibility into everything currently connected to the network and the state of the connectivity
2. Focus on device behavior
3. Consider network security automation
The best way to get a handle on connected devices is to use a set of comprehensive network monitoring tools—specifically tools capable of discovering, mapping, and itemizing everything currently connected to the network. This tool set should then be able to provide in-depth detail about each device, including user-based information such as who’s connected, when they connected, and where they’re connected.
Once the federal IT team has a solid device connectivity and usage map, it’s equally important to understand what those devices are doing relative to what they’re supposed to be doing. For example, if a network administrator sees a 5G-connected environmental sensor isn’t acting like a sensor at all and is instead acting like a complex information-sharing node, this is an imminent red flag. Remember, simple device identification is no longer enough; agencies must advance toward a focus on device behavior.
The security risks introduced with 5G aren’t new, but they have the potential to be far more advanced. Because 5G is software-driven, cybersecurity attacks within a 5G network will be software attacks; they must be countered with software protections. Enter security automation. As federal IT pros respond to network intrusions, they can evaluate and refine remediation strategies. Automated network security solutions can learn from breaches to offer protection for the future.
The benefits of 5G are undeniable, particularly relative to agency modernization efforts. The secret to success is to take a holistic approach, ensuring the federal IT team has consistent visibility across the entire agency environment. The federal IT team must have the ability to accurately track and manage IP addresses and conflicts, domain names, user devices, and more; must be able to monitor device behavior to uncover potential threat-based anomalies; and must be able to take automated action to thwart attacks.