Analysis

The first open 5G cyber security hackathon a success

16th December 2019
Alex Lynn

On Friday 29th November, top hackers from all over the world gathered to Oulu, Finland to test their skills against 5G and cyber security during the weekend. Oulu, located near the Arctic Circle, is known as a global 5G and 6G hotspot and is the home to research and development of top-tier cyber security.

The world’s first open 5G Cyber security Hackathon gathered 70 cyber security specialists from 15 different countries to compete in challenges set by Ericsson, Nokia and Oulu University. The hackathon was arranged by the National Cyber security Centre Finland from Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom.

“Cyber security is a key pillar of our digital society. Ensuring cyber security should be a joint effort between equipment manufacturers, technology users and authorities. To be able to grasp emerging opportunities, it is wise to be one of the first to generate expertise and create a common front to improve 5G cyber security. As a national agency, we want to collaborate actively with international technology businesses and leading security professionals to reach our common goal: a reliable and secure digital society,” said Jarkko Saarimäki, Director of the National Cyber security Centre Finland at Traficom.

The majority of the hackers had no hands-on experience with 5G networks and appreciated the opportunity to be among the first ones in the world to explore 5G. Themes of the hackathon included improving the cyber security in 5G infrastructure and ensuring the information security in digital services used over 5G. The hacker teams dug deep into the cyber security aspects and could provide useful insight and point out topics which will add value to development of cyber security fundamentals. Everyone benefited from the hackathon learnings and the event was considered to be a success by all parties.

Mikko Karikytö, Head of Network Security, Ericsson, said: “For us, the key benefit for joining the 5G Cyber security Hackathon was to engage with the security community embracing the opportunity of having some of the world’s leading hackers putting their skills at test on our 5G solution. 5G is the most secure communication technology we have seen so far – further improving the security and privacy from the already strong 4G. 

“Having said that, we wanted to expose our 5G technology to the hackers and go ‘all-in’. No critical issues were discovered, but even all the minor findings made during the weekend are already processed by Ericsson security experts and fed back to R&D.”

“To ensure public trust in 5G, it is important that security is built in from the start and that potential security gaps are identified at an early stage,” explained Niklas Lindroos, Head of Security for Mobile Networks and Global Services at Nokia. “This 5G Hackathon event was a great opportunity to do just that and for the industry to learn about network security. We are pleased that no major security defects were found in our product – a testament to our robust product security processes. However, we did gain unique insight into future attack surfaces and can design the defences of future products accordingly.”

5G technology will be one of the building blocks of our future digital society all over the world. Transition to the 5G technology will be accompanied by a more significant change than any of the previous generations of mobile communications networks. Ensuring cyber security in networks will be crucial for the services provided by the public sector and businesses in the future.

Professor Juha Röning from the University of Oulu, added: “This was a big learning experience for us all. 5G security promises were not broken, but thanks to the professionals spending their time here, we learned a lot about the network security issues. Also, it is important to utilise the lessons learned from other networks. The university will benefit from the hackathon’s results greatly, and this encourages us to intensify our research efforts. Our 5G network is available for cooperation as well as for real application tests in the future.”

The hackathon will be followed by Leading Edge 5G Forum on February 13th, 2020 in Helsinki, Finland. The event will gather the leading cyber security experts and decision-makers from around the world in a single forum. In addition, the findings of the hackathon will be discussed in the forum.

Participants include major technology vendors, EU cyber security authorities, top decision-makers and representatives from some of the biggest operators around the world in addition to leading professionals and evangelists in the field of 5G cyber security.

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