Palo Alto Networks Takes On 5G Security With New Offerings

‘Service providers are super, super eager for 5G. But enterprises won’t use 5G unless they have confidence in the security,’ says Palo Alto Networks SVP and GM Anand Oswal.


Palo Alto Networks has rolled out a series of as-a-service offerings to help service providers and enterprises secure 5G networks, services, applications and devices.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based platform security vendor said 5G has been architected in a way that allows partners to create services that enhance use cases like smart supply chains, autonomous transportation and smart manufacturing. Higher speeds and reduced latency make 5G an appealing prospect for many enterprises, said Anand Oswal, senior vice president and general manager for firewall as a platform.

“Service providers are super, super eager for 5G,” Oswal told CRN. “But enterprises won’t use 5G unless they have confidence in the security. And service providers won’t be able to open revenue streams if enterprises don’t have the confidence.”

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Securing 4G connections was mostly about roaming infrastructure, ensuring that a user that traveled to Europe still have network security in the roaming interface, Oswal said. But in a 5G world, Oswal said that everything is open, meaning that security is needed not only for the roaming interface but also for the radio access network and roaming interfaces all seamlessly integrated into the cloud architecture.

5G for the first time allows network slicing, where Oswal said service providers can offer enterprises a dedicated end-to-end piece of the network guaranteed under a service-level agreement. Open interfaces and protocols also allows private networks to be built in 5G for the first time, while multi-access edge compute (MEC) is needed to address latency issues around the authentication gateway.

Private networks started to gain traction last year in verticals like manufacturing where factories historically hadn’t been connected or were connected using very old protocols, Oswal said. These private 5G connections have really taken off in 2020, Oswal said, with security remaining top of mind for prospective customers.

Meanwhile, the standards for 5G network slicing and multi-access edge compute were defined just a few months ago, so Oswal anticipates that large-scale deployments won’t happen until 2021. Automation will play a vital role in 5G security since errors are often introduced during manual configuration processes, and Oswal said better results can be achieved by taking out the human touch.

Palo Alto Networks’ approach to 5G security starts with real-time threat resolution, which Oswal said will allow customers to understand which users and devices are on their 5G networks and correlate threats to specific subscribers and devices. From there, Oswal said the technology will be able to determine which policies can be automatically applied to prevent the attack.

The company can provide visibility and control across the signaling, data, control and application layers as well as at all key locations of the 5G network for comprehensive protection. The offering also includes automated cloud-delivered threat intelligence to defend against adversaries operating at 5G speeds and prevent known and unknown threats in real-time across 5G networks on a global scale.

Given that a lot of the private 5G networks will be vertically focused, Oswal recommended that solution providers looking to play in the space have a deep understanding of their customer’s business and build out security first to avoid having to retrofit later. Customers are trying to protect mission-critical assets in private 5G networks, so he said partners should have visibility and cloud integrations from the onset.

5G security capabilities are available on the Palo Alto Networks PA-5200 Series and PA-7000 Series hardware firewalls as well as all VM-Series/CN-Series software models running PAN-OS 10.0 or greater, the company said. Security services can be added based on use case requirements, Palo Alto Networks said.

Oswal anticipates that the private 5G networks will take advantage of Palo Alto Networks’ software-based virtualized or containerized firewalls, while larger, nationwide 5G networks with roaming interfaces probably haven’t virtualized everything yet and will therefore need firewall hardware. Demand for 5G has thus far been among enterprises such as manufacturers with large factory floors.

5G also provides solution providers with rich services opportunities spanning the gamut from threat prevention and IoT security to sandboxing and DNS security, Oswal said. Palo Alto Networks plans to offer partners training around 5G security and build out collateral detailing how private 5G networks and 5G network slicing can be beneficial in specific vertical use cases.

“Partners see this as a huge opportunity to generate new revenue streams,” Oswal said. “5G is a big, big event. It’s really coming now.”