The steady advance toward one network for all customers, a growing array of diverse services geared toward wider user bases via agile development, plus increased gathering and reliance on data for predictive analytics and automation add up to more pressure on service providers to ensure their networks are secure.
For many providers, these security investments also mean new or expanded business opportunities.
Global spending on security solutions will reach almost $105 billion through 2020 versus $81.7 billion this year, according to IDC's Worldwide Semiannual Security Spending Guide. The top focus of security expenditures: network security, both hardware and software, which will account for $15.2 billion in outlays this year, the research firm predicted.
The telecom industry alone will spend $5 billion in 2017 on security, IDC found.
"The rapid growth of digital transformation is putting pressures on companies across all industries to proactively invest in security to protect themselves against known and unknown threats," said Eileen Smith, program director of Customer Insights and Analysis at IDC, in a statement.
The amount of data available to operators, plus their use of this information for analytics and Internet of Things, adds more complexity, said David Poole, business development director at MyPinPad, which recently conducted a survey on consumer trust.
"With the ongoing developments in IoT and big data, complexities and security challenges in telecom networks and systems are increasing in volume and diversity," he told UBB2020 in an interview. "The increasingly frequent cyber risks in the ecosystems demands telecoms and broadband providers to make a commitment to cybersecurity that focuses on highly trained personnel, up-to-date solutions and the right tools to prevent, detect, analyze and respond to threats. There needs to be a change in mentality, from security as a cost, to security as a plus and a must."
Some countries want to partially address communications network security via legislation. Australia last week accepted all recommendations made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) for its Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016.
"The proposed reforms create an obligation on carriers and carriage service providers to do their best to protect their networks from unauthorized access and interference. This includes providing early advice to government of any changes to their network that may be of security concern, so that agencies can assess risks and cooperate with industry on mitigation strategies," said Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Attorney-General George Brandis in a joint statement.
The operator edge
Regardless of law, being secure makes sound business sense on all levels. And as providers forge into smart homes, other IoT areas such as connected cars and smart cities, and enterprises, the need for high-level security only grows.
"Given that telecom companies control critical infrastructure, the impact of an attack in this sector can be very high and far-reaching," Poole said. "Broadband providers, with attacks of leased infrastructure equipment, such as home routers from ISPs, are becoming a big target. If one piece of equipment is compromised, hackers can use it to steal data, launch other attacks anonymously, store exfiltrated data or access expensive services."
Indeed, in its most recent earnings report's cautionary statements, Charter cautioned investors about its ability to "develop and deploy new products and technologies including … downloadable security for set-top boxes and any other cloud-based consumer services and service platforms."
To address the many possible breach points, service providers are taking multiple tacks.
In its most recent earnings report, Chunghwa Telecom outlined continued growth in Q2 2017 from its cloud, big data and security offerings, which it leveraged into an IoT platform during year-end 2016, said Chi-Mau Sheih, president of the operator, during the earnings call.
Some service providers use SD-WAN to safeguard their networks and customer data. In June, for example, NTT Communications debuted its SD-WAN Service Portfolio across more than 190 countries. A software-defined network acts as a framework for NTT to deliver a suite of overlay SD-WAN services. The solution also delivers network security and real-time streaming network analytics so enterprise customers can manage their networks' workload and performance.
For its part, Kalaam Telecom BSC chose Versa Networks' SD-WAN technologies when it needed a carrier-grade, flexible solution as the basis of its customized SD-WAN service, said Veer Passi, CEO of Kalaam, in an interview.
"We see SD-WAN technology as a great solution for organizations to address today’s connectivity, reliability and security challenges. Adding SD-WAN into Kalaam's portfolio adds great value to our customers and thus provides an edge in the market," he said. "SD-WAN technology offers a solution to most of today's WAN challenges, such as increased bandwidth requirements and growing security threats."
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.