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IBM and Palo Alto Networks Collaborate on 5G Security

October 27, 2021

By Chris McCurdy, General Manager, IBM Global Security Services and Craig Wilson, Vice President, IBM Global Telecom & Media Industry

As telecom operators upgrade their networks for 5G and Edge they can create digital platform businesses that are better positioned for innovation and value capture. Operators have an opportunity to be providers of managed security services, helping to secure the end to end service from the device to the application.

Cybersecurity is the challenge of this decade

In doing so, they also face new security challenges. Internal and external threats to cybersecurity will continue to grow along with the proliferation of IoT devices and the modernization of telecom networks to hybrid cloud based architectures. A recent IBM Security study, “The Annual Cost of a Data Breach,” indicated that 75% of responding operators have experienced incidences of fraud and 61% said network security threats increased or significantly increased since the beginning of the pandemic1.

The 5G evolution is designed to deliver higher data speeds, latency improvements and the functional redesign of mobile networks to help enable greater agility, efficiency, and openness. Although these new capabilities can yield revenue opportunities for operators, the hybrid spread of network devices, and the variety of devices that can leverage the network including low-cost, low-power, unsecured IoT/sensors can also pose increased security risks for both operators and end-users. Establishing the right security approach for emerging 5G networks is critical.

IBM is working with communication services providers around the globe on a “secure by design” strategy to build cybersecurity capabilities into every part of their business, helping them implement a Zero Trust strategy across their network and IT operations.

Implications for deploying 5G and Edge Networks

Although 5G can expand the attack surface of Telecom operators and their customers, the distinctly new architecture and capabilities of 5G networks are being designed to give operators opportunities to detect and address cyber threats more efficiently than ever before. As mobile networks increasingly evolve towards a hybrid cloud platform, we believe automated security orchestration and management will be crucial in 5G networks. Additionally, xNF security posture will need to be maintained at every stage of the lifecycle, from onboarding to operations. End-to-end security will require management through a central point of control, and smart security controls will be required in order to cope with unpredictable threats that try to exploit weaknesses in the network.

How operators architect security into their 5G networks and adopt a Zero Trust strategy is essential, and the following factors should be considered:

  • An industry standard framework that can help reduce integration risk and cost
  • Building security policies into the CI/CD process to aid with innovation speed, improved quality
  • Threat management assessments help expose potential areas of vulnerability
  • A Zero Trust strategy can institutionalize the right policies in the journey to cloud native

IBM and Palo Alto Networks are collaborating to help operators build secured 5G networks

IBM and Palo Alto Networks are working together to deliver cybersecurity solutions to enterprise and telecom customers around the world.

Today our two companies are working in partnership to address the unique security requirements for telecom operators deploying 5G Networks and Edge services. Palo Alto Networks and IBM are working together to bring integrated security solutions and services designed for 5G networks and ecosystems. This collaboration includes security and automation spanning multifunction network devices and VNFs, container security and control plane security.

At Mobile World Congress (MWC) Los Angeles, IBM and Palo Alto Networks will demonstrate a 5G Network Slice with Validation, Security Orchestration & Response. This demonstration shows how Operators can deploy a Network slice with integrated security controls, test the slice with end to end validation before production deployment, and help protect the slice from network attacks.

We invite you to visit IBM at Booth 1520 for a demo of IBM and Palo Alto Networks 5G Security solutions at Mobile World Congress Los Angeles (Oct 26-28). For more information or to schedule a virtual demo, visit:


1 IBM Security, “The Annual Cost of a Data Breach,” July 2021.

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