Telecommunication networks have become an integral part of major national operations. Apart from the evergreen popularity of Voice and Messaging, we now have a new national obsession; data! As of 2021, about 60% of the world’s population (4.66 billion) actively uses the internet. Of course, the criticality of the telecom network and the high disruptive potential raises the stakes. There is a risk of potential misuse or disruption and that can be a major threat to the national security of any country. So, it won’t be an understatement to say that telecom networks now hold utmost importance in national security.
In light of such fears, many nations have implemented changes with immediate effect to ensure network safety. For example, many countries (including India) have imposed a ban on the use of China-manufactured products and applications. The National Security Directive on Telecommunication Sector (NSDTS) of the Indian government has also banned the use of any unauthorized telecom networks. But the nature of security threats continues to evolve and so must the security stance.
One key element of the security stance is the growing focus on country gateways. Think, for instance, what would happen if a rogue actor created malware that flooded the data network of a major telecom carrier in an emerging country? Genuine users would face problems with using their data networks, business operations that relied on the internet would grind to a halt, and critical functions like remote education and telemedicine would get crippled. This could prove devastating. That apart, there are deep-rooted challenges to address. For instance, SS7 and Diameter signaling protocols in telecommunication can pose a potential threat to the banking system if hacked. Countries across the globe are therefore looking at building a secured country gateway for telecommunication networks.
In this article, we will discuss why a country gateway is crucial to ensure cybersecurity in the country. We will also highlight the key features offered by country gateways to support the argument. But before getting into the details, let’s understand what a country gateway is.
What is a country gateway?
A country gateway acts as a robust barrier that enables secured networking for data transmission across countries. It establishes a set of administrative procedures which are mutually accepted by interacting networks. In telecommunications, the country gateway regulates the incoming and outgoing data from one discrete network inside the boundary to those outside.
It serves as a checkpoint where all the data is screened for any malicious activity. This helps protect the data from potential breaches and cyber threats. It also avoids any unauthorized traffic in the network.
The country gateway usually follows more than one protocol to connect multiple networks. This provides multilayered protection against malware. These gateways are usually automated and are capable of decision-making, based on a defined set of rules. This advantage provides an edge to a country gateway over a conventional firewall.
How does a country gateway provide security?
A country gateway serves as an entry and exit point into a secured network. So, whenever data is received, it first goes through the gateway. The gateway ensures that the incoming information does not violate any of the nation’s security policies. If no issue or malware is detected, the country gateway then decides the routing path of these data packets. The gateway works for outgoing information or requests similarly. This way the country gateway acts as a firewall to avoid any unauthorized or unwanted actions.
A country gateway can either be hardware, software (cloud-based), or a combination of both. Of late, cloud-based gateways seem to be providing more flexibility with remote networks.
Why is a country gateway essential to security?
With advancements in technology, cybercriminals have also grown sophisticated. It has become difficult to differentiate genuine data from malware. As digitalization has spiked exponentially, the establishment of a secured country gateway has become essential to prevent malicious data from entering the safe system and crippling it. Let’s discuss the key features of a country gateway that makes it ideal for security:
- Malware scan and control: Country gateways do not allow any viruses or malware to corrupt an operating network. The gateway scans all the data that passes through and matches it to existing or known malware. Some gateways also run the code of suspected malware in a controlled environment to see how it behaves; also known as sandboxing. This helps in detecting hidden threats. So, if any malware is detected, the gateway blocks it right away.
- Decryption: Most of the internet traffic is now encrypted by HTTPS which makes it difficult to identify a threat. Many gateways can decrypt HTTPS to search for malware. After scanning, if the network is found safe, the gateway re-encrypts it and forwards it to the recipient. In addition, country gateways can also translate one data format to another. This helps in smooth networking without compromising the integrity of the information transferred.
- URL filter: Although HTTPS is the standard protocol for most IT operations, still some of the networks support HTTP and FTP protocols. The country gateway scans all types of internet protocols and allows only the approved traffic to connect. These lists are maintained as a part of the national security policies. So, any network that is not in compliance with the approved list gets blocked by the gateway. Furthermore, the gateway can also block individual data packets within a network. This is called content filtering. The policies for content filtering are usually customized based on the requirements.
- Data loss prevention (DLP): A secured country gateway also protects sensitive information such as confidential documents from flowing out of a network. This means that a gateway will not allow any intellectual property or data to leave a system without approval. This process is called exfiltration. For example, if an application requires documents to be uploaded, the data in those documents will be screened for confidential information. It will be approved only if it does not violate any of the security policies. This way DLP protects the crucial data against cybercrimes such as hacking.
- Application control: This function enables the country gateway to control the applications used by any citizen. With the increasing popularity of social media apps, the risks involved are also growing sharply. The country gateway can therefore be used to regulate resources that an application can access.
- Cross-layer function: The country gateway provides cross-layer services which aim to improve the CIA triad (confidentiality, integrity, and availability) of transmitted data. A cross-layer function also enables the country gateway to interoperate between all seven layers of data transmission, as proposed in the open systems interconnections (OSI) model. This makes the country gateway a one-stop solution for all security concerns.
How to choose a secured country gateway?
Choosing a country gateway is a crucial decision. As it deals with highly confidential data, it can compromise a nation’s economy if mishandled or leaked. The chosen country gateway should also provide high-risk management. It should be able to detect early threats such as state or non-state hacks and take immediate actions.
Although most gateways are customized based on the requirement, it is important to search for a flexible solution provider who understands the world of telecom, is an expert at the security aspects, and has a clear focus on new and emerging technologies like AI and ML.
Currently, digitalization and cyber threats are progressing hand-in-hand. Hence, it’s important to deploy country gateways to enhance security. The right gateway provides a nation robust security and a clear vision for the future. This helps the country gateway be ready to respond at speed with an automated call of action in case of any breach; today and tomorrow.
Globe Teleservices offers a comprehensive suite of solutions designed specifically to meet all the requirements of the global telecom industry. If you need any help with the gateways, you can reach out to us at www.globeteleservices.com.