Will Latest Cyber Attack Unite the Digital Community?

May 17, 2017

Blog

Although data breaches and cybercrime are increasingly the hallmark of the age we live in, last week’s WannaCry attack has drawn out uniformly strong calls for the wider tech industry to improve security. Affecting more than 150 countries and high profile institutions such as the Russian Interior Ministry, China’s Zhejiang University and the UK’s NHS, WannaCry ransomware has again underscored the cross-sector, global nature of the threat to digital services. The episode also drew attention to the potential vulnerabilities of older software and the difficulty of improving the security of legacy systems.

Preventing threats such as WannaCry depends on industry collaboration. The mobile industry has taken steps to improve security via its new operator-led identity solution, Mobile Connect, which can be used to enhance security through authentication, authorisation and KYC.

Using Mobile Connect to limit exposure to security threats

As the spread of malware often occurs through downloading email attachments, an identity solution such as Mobile Connect can be used to digitally sign documents, thereby increasing the user’s confidence that the content is from a known and trusted source.

Additionally, Mobile Connect’s authentication can also be used provide additional contextual information regarding the signature, e.g. the location.  As email is one of the primary vehicles for the spread the malware, the email client can use Mobile Connect to authenticate the user. As such, even if the service consumption device is compromised, the user needs to be authenticated using the out-of-band mechanism of Mobile Connect.

The inherent security of mobile networks, their global presence and the increasing number of Mobile Connect’s enabled users (currently 3.1bn), makes Mobile Connect especially attractive for global service providers who may need to use secure cross-border authentication.

Acting quickly to secure the IoT

As reported in the Washington Post by security technologist Bruce Schneier, the development of IoT solutions could mean that the next cyber-attack may be more severe than WannaCry. In the not-to-distant future, connected ovens, fridges, automobiles and many other smart machines all potentially pose new threats to our safety, and as such, need to be designed with security in mind.

IoT solutions can be made more secure if the broader ecosystem adopts a common approach. Here, the mobile industry is playing a key role by offering their long experience of network security in the form of the GSMA IoT Security Guidelines.

In Schneier’s view, low-cost devices that do not contain security by design could be particularly vulnerable. The security of low-cost devices can be improved by using connecting them via licensed networks, which are innately more secure and reliable than alternatives.

As has been demonstrated, Mobile Connect has been designed for use with emerging connected devices such as connected vending machines and automobiles. For more information on Mobile Connect, please visit gsma.com/mobileconnect

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