Softpedia Exclusive: Crossbeam Expert on Security Challenges Faced by Mobile Operators

Securing a network is not easy when millions of new endpoints are about to be added

By on October 29th, 2012 18:31 GMT

This Christmas we’ll most likely see an unprecedented surge in sales of Internet-enabled and network-connected device use in both home and workplace environments. This automatically means that mobile network operators will have to prepare their systems to handle a large number of new endpoints.

Network congestion, security risks and scalability challenges are some of the main issues that companies will have to address now that products such as the iPad Mini have been released.

We wanted to find out how well companies could cope with these changes and what exactly they must do to address all these problems.

So, we’ve contacted Peter Doggart, senior director of global marketing at Crossbeam Systems – a company that specializes in offering fixed and mobile telecoms network operators security solutions that can cope with high data volumes and sudden spikes in network activity without hampering other network resources.

Softpedia: Did mobile network operators expect such a surge in sales and, implicitly, the millions of new devices joining their networks?

Peter Doggart: Mobile network operators have been struggling for years to keep up with surging mobile data volumes, and the treadmill just keeps going faster and faster, never giving them a chance to catch-up.

Deployments to increase their mobile data capacity take years of architectural planning and considerable capital expense – they don’t happen instantly. And the iPads are incremental to other smartphone and tablet traffic.

For example, adoption of iOS6 on all devices has been white hot, with 15% downloading during its first 24 hours of availability on Sept. 19/20, with an additional 35% within 2 weeks. So it is the cumulative traffic impact that is keeping mobile network operators trying to go faster on the treadmill.

Softpedia: You’ve previously said that mobile network operators should plan ahead by implementing network infrastructure and services such as security that will protect endpoints and the network itself, with the capability scale to cope with millions of new devices appearing en masse on the network without compromising quality of service for all.

From your experience, have they started planning ahead or this is just something they should do?

Peter Doggart: Network Operators must respond to a myriad of conflicting requirements: escalating mobile data traffic from iPads and all mobile devices, along with increasing user demands for faster network response times, internal pressures to control capital expenditures, and increasingly sophisticated security threats.

It’s a delicate dance to satisfy all these requirements. The result is that network operators could be exposed with inadequate capacity for the anticipated mobile data traffic or insufficient security to fully protect endpoints and the network from morphing security threats.

And when actual needs turn out to be higher than anticipated needs, the impact can be very significant.

Softpedia: What exactly can be done? What types of systems should be implemented to protect endpoints and the network?

Peter Doggart: Operators need to consider the network capacity and its rate of expansion, along with the up-time requirements for the network and their ability to incrementally scale and adapt over time.

Given evolving threats, they may need to add different types of inspections to thwart attacks, in addition to the desire to easily incrementally scale network capacity.

Historically this meant adding more appliances to the network, dramatically impacting the complexity of managing the network, but now more comprehensive solutions are available that allow for incremental scaling of network capacity for a broad variety of security applications while also increasing availability.

Softpedia: Can you describe a negative scenario that could occur if measures are not taken?

Peter Doggart: Fraudulent access to mobile network operators’ networks compromises corporate resources and customer traffic.

There are a broad number of attack schemes including intercepting SMS messages, intercepting warning notifications from the operators to customers about unusual activity, and stealing of data from mobile data traffic and customer’s devices.

With the escalating number of attack vectors and the increasing frequency of attacks, operators’ revenue is impacted, including by the inflated need to build even more capacity into their networks just to handle traffic generated by this fraudulent traffic.

In the process authorized customers’ performance on the network is also impacted, reducing customer satisfaction and increasing customer churn – all around a costly proposition.

Softpedia: Can you sum up in a few words the principles used by the Crossbeam platform to address the security issues?

Peter Doggart: Crossbeam enables a broad variety of security products to be deployed on a highly scalable, highly available, and incrementally adaptable platform – so that mobile network operators can protect customers’ end points AND their network.

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