Securing 5G open RAN architecture

Security considerations always emerge in new open system

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and National Security Agency (NSA), through the Enduring Security Framework (ESF), have published a paper titled, Open Radio Access Network Security Considerations which assesses the benefits and security considerations with implementing Open RAN architecture.

The ESF’s Open RAN Working Panel focused on security considerations for several key technical aspects of Open RAN: multi-vendor management, the Open Fronthaul connecting radios to base station equipment, a new RAN application framework comprising rApps and xApps, the use of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) for RAN optimization, and other general network considerations including open-source software, virtualization, and a cloud based 5G core network.

“Security considerations always emerge in new open systems aiming for improved cost, performance, and supply chain benefits” said Jorge Laurel, ESF Project Director. “Open RAN shares these security considerations too, and, with continuing efforts by the Open RAN ecosystem, they can be overcome.”

“Open RAN is an exciting concept, one that opens up several doors to innovation, improved network performance, and a more diverse and competitive cyber ecosystem,” said CISA Acting Assistant Director, Mona Harrington. “However, with those benefits come the potential for additional security concerns. As a community, we must work together to not only identify these concerns but also develop the practices and architecture to mitigate them.”

This document was written for general informational purposes only. It is intended to apply to a variety of factual circumstances and industry stakeholders. The guidance in this document is provided “as is” based on knowledge and recommended practices in existence at the time of publication. Some of the security considerations identified in this assessment are not unique to Open RAN and exist in current closed RAN deployments, while others are exclusive to Open RAN architecture.

Critical infrastructure stakeholders benefit from working together to address these security considerations, ensuring a secure and resilient Open RAN ecosystem.


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