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Verizon announces 5G network security advances and deploys Quantum Key Distribution network

The carrier conducted trials ahead of 5G launches and says it is one of the first to pilot QKD in the US.


Verizon on Thursday made two announcements related to security. The first involves a series of successful trials to future proof its 5G network against security threats and to implement advanced security measures to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of Verizon’s 5G network, the company said.

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The carrier also announced reaching a milestone in future-proofing data from hackers following a trial in the Washington, D.C. area that it said demonstrates how quantum-based technology can strengthen security.

With the advent of 5G wireless communications and a new era of network connectivity comes the need for new security measures to protect against threats and ensure the reliability and resilience of communications services, the carrier said.

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“As the design and deployment of networks becomes more complicated and the capabilities of networks allow for much more advanced and robust systems, securing those networks is the highest priority,” said Srini Kalapala, vice president of network planning for Verizon, in a statement. 

Use of quantum-based technology to improve security

Additionally, the carrier said it recently conducted a trial in the D.C. area deploying a QKD network on which quantum keys were created and exchanged over a fiber network between Verizon locations.

During the trial, video streams were encrypted and delivered more securely allowing the recipient to see the video in real time while ensuring hackers are instantly detected, according to Verizon.

With QKD, encryption keys are continuously generated and are immune to attacks because any disruption to the channel breaks the quantum state of photons signaling eavesdroppers are present, Verizon said.

“We continue to innovate and discover new ways to ensure safe networks and communications down the road for both consumers and enterprises,” said Nicki Palmer, chief product innovation officer at Verizon. “In testing advanced security technologies, our QKD trial demonstrates how quantum-based technology can strengthen data security today and in the future.”

Quantum computers are believed to be able to solve certain computational problems significantly faster than classical computers, eventually making it easier for hackers to crack math-based encryption keys. Because there is a limit to how many unique number combinations can be generated today, hackers using the increased compute power of quantum computers will be able to decrypt users’ data more easily, according to Verizon.

“The use of quantum mechanics is a great step forward in data security,” said Christina Richmond, an analyst at IDC, in a statement. “Verizon’s own tests, as well other industry testing, have shown that deriving ‘secret keys’ between two entities via light photons effectively blocks perfect cloning by an eavesdropper if a key intercept is attempted.”

Current technological breakthroughs have proved that both the quantum channel and encrypted data channel can be sent over a single optical fiber, Richmond added.

Network advances

The carrier also said it has added security network accelerators to improve latency and operational efficiency. The additional hardware supports security functions such as firewalls, IDS, DDoS, probes, and packet brokers, which are deployed throughout the network, Verizon said. 

In partnership with the University of California at Santa Barbara, Verizon said it is also testing the use of AI and machine learning to develop a security framework that will manage the security around the flow of information and how it is interpreted and used.

The carrier said it is also working with network security company GuardTime on a trial using cryptographically secure functions to create digital fingerprints of data and store them in a blockchain so they cannot be modified. By comparing fingerprints stored in the blockchain to fingerprints taken during or after a cyberattack, companies can more quickly and easily determine if the integrity of their data was compromised, Verizon said. 

When complete, Verizon engineers will be able to leverage machine state integrity to protect the data on its network, the carrier said.

Connected vehicles

In other Verizon network news, the carrier has teamed with LG on a secure credentialing management system (SCMS) for connected vehicles. The SCMS provides digitally signed certificates and activation codes that are used to validate vehicle safety messages, the carrier said.

The Verizon and LG team validated and secured CV2X basic safety messages (BSMs) using a standards compliant SCMS hosted on a Verizon 5G multi-access edge computing (MEC) network. The trial, which Verizon said demonstrates how 5G MEC can be used for connected vehicle security, was conducted at the Mcity Test Track in Ann Arbor, MI.

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