LTE small cells present security threat, says Vitesse CTO

Most mobile operators are planning or actually deploying indoor and outdoor small cells to densify their LTE networks, but the pending widespread deployment of small cells is creating an urgent and unprecedented IT security threat, according to Martin Nuss, CTO at Vitesse Semiconductor.

According to Nuss, the accessibility of small cells, which are often located at street level in outdoor deployments, makes the diminutive infrastructure devices easy prey for all manner of hackers and vandals. Another problem stems from the fact that small cell backhaul is often delivered via third-party access provider networks that may not have the same security standards as the wireless operator's own network, Nuss said.

He also noted that GPS timing, critical to LTE network functionality, can become impossible within buildings or in dense urban corridors where GPS reception is poor or non-existent. In addition, small cell susceptibility to GPS jamming and spoofing poses another concern. Nuss suggested that packet-based network timing using IEEE 1588 is the preferred GPS alternative for small cells if it can be secured.

Nuss made his comments during a panel at 4G World, part of CTIA's Super Mobility Week in Las Vegas. For more, see this Vitesse release.