Messaging for the Future: Securing SMS in 5G

In the wake of the migration to 5G mobile networks, SMS represents a critical part of telecoms operators’ 5G offering. In this white paper, AdaptiveMobile Security digs into the SMS technology, determining the security implications to consider for SMS as mobile operators roll out 5G networks and migrate subscribers to the next generation of mobile networks. 



Blueprint for Securing 5G SMS

Exploring the potential security consequences for SMS in 5G.

Securing SMS over 5G is a complex combination of dealing with legacy technology, while also integrating with the new technologies and network designs that 5G brings. Mobile network operators must ensure they are fully aware of the potential threats and how best to mitigate them both in the future as well as today as they migrate to 5G. The mistakes of 3G and 4G must not be repeated.


How SMS in 5G works

Analysing the potential security consequences for SMS in 5G requires understanding of how SMS in 5G works. This white paper provides: 

  • Information to mobile operators on implementing legacy support for SMS traversing both 4G and 5G networks. 
  • Explanations on how SMS subscriber roaming is sent and the various delivery approaches. 
  • Comparison of 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G SMS-related nodes and interfaces and a breakdown of the mechanisms of SMS delivery using Rich Communication Suite (RCS) in a 5G environment.

Reports project the global A2P SMS market to reach US$74.7 Billion by the year 2026.

-Global Market Trajectory & Analytics report, GIA

Security risks of SMS and attack scenarios

This report dives into the current misuse of SMS and the various attack types that are possible and that AdaptiveMobile Security believe will continue when sending SMS through the 5G core network including: Unsolicited SMS Messaging, SMS Phishing, Premium SMS Fraud, Mobile Malware, Surveillance, Information Retrieval, Denial of Service, SMS Interception and Grey Routes abuse. The report highlights new potential SMS risks and attacks that may arise in the next generation of mobile networks. 


How to protect networks and subscribers using SMS over 5G

Finally, AdaptiveMobile Security's paper provides an outline of how to mitigate threats and best practices for securing SMS in 5G, such as:

  • Protecting various attacker entry points.
  • Implementing efficient filtering approaches.
  • Ongoing threat intelligence to defend against new and evolving attacker tactics, techniques, and procedures.
Rumours of the demise of SMS have been greatly exaggerated, in particular in the A2P market where we continue to see strong growth. SMS holds and will continue to hold significant and considerable advantages to Over-the-Top messaging services. Despite all the new features of 5G, SMS’s ability to reach every mobile device in the world makes it a powerful tool for mobile operators and brands, both today but also for the foreseeable futureHowever, securing SMS over 5G is a complex combination of dealing with legacy technology, while also integrating with the new demands and network designs that 5G brings. Mobile network operators must ensure they are fully aware of the potential threats and how to best mitigate them both today and in the future as they migrate to 5G.

Cathal McDaid, CTO of AdaptiveMobile Security


What are the types of SMS attacks in 5G?

Most of the common SMS attacks today will continue to exist in 5G, due to the heavy usage of legacy systems and the fact that attackers will continue to be incentivized to attack mobile phone users. In particular, we expect the following attacks to continue: 

  • Unsolicited SMS Messaging 
  • SMS Phishing/Smishing 
  • Premium SMS Fraud 
  • Mobile Malware propagation 
  • Surveillance and Information Retrieval 
  • Denial of Service
  • SMS Interception 
  • Grey Routes 

 5G also introduced new security challenges such with the introduction of:  

  • Cloud & virtualization
  • Partner access to core e.g., MEC, NEF or slicing

Why securing SMS in 5G will be so important?

SMS will continue to be an important functionality on 5G networks. Despite previous predictions around the demise of SMS and the reduction of Person-to-Person (P2P) messaging on the channel; there has been a significant increase in Application to Person (A2P) SMS traffic enabling businesses to have digital conversations with their customers. Reports project the global A2P SMS market to reach US$74.7 Billion by the year 2026.

Messaging for the Future:

Securing SMS in 5G

Download the white paper now!

About AdaptiveMobile Security, an Enea company

Cyber & Telecom Security

AdaptiveMobile Security, an Enea company, is a world leader in mobile network security, protecting more than 2.2 billion subscribers worldwide. With deep expertise and a unique focus on network security, AdaptiveMobile Security award-winning innovative security solutions and services provide its customers with advanced threat detection, response, and actionable intelligence, combined with the most comprehensive security product-set in the market today, predicting and protecting against multiprotocol mobile security attacks. 

AdaptiveMobile Security provides its customers with the unique combination of technology, analyst input and intelligence to ensure their subscribers, data and networks remain protected from cyber warfare. 

AdaptiveMobile Security was founded in 2006. The Company counts some of the world’s largest carriers, Governments and Regulators as customers. The Company is headquartered in Dublin with offices in North America, Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific region.

Protecting Every Nation! Every Network! Every Number!