Home > 3GPP > A Review on 3GPP 5G Security Aspects

A Review on 3GPP 5G Security Aspects


Rajavelsamy R.

Samsung R&D Institute India — Bangalore (SRI-B)

Debabrata Das

International Institute of Information Technology — Bangalore (IIITB)


5G promises to support new level of use cases that will deliver a better user experience. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) [1] defined 5G system introduced fundamental changes on top of its former cellular systems in several design areas, including security. Unlike in the legacy systems, the 5G architecture design considers Home control enhancements for roaming customer, tight collaboration with the 3rd Party Application servers, Unified Authentication framework to accommodate various category of devices and services, enhanced user privacy, and secured the new service based core network architecture. Further, 3GPP is investigating the enhancements to the 5G security aspects to support longer security key lengths, False Base station detection and wireless backhaul in the Phase-2 of 5G standardization [2]. This paper provides the key enhancements specified by the 3GPP for 5G system, particularly the differences to the 4G system and the rationale behind the decisions.

1 Introduction

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is the international standards organization responsible for industry-wide 5G standards [1]. The security group in 3GPP (Service and System Aspects WG#3 (SA3)) [2], is responsible to specify the security aspects of the cellular systems specified in 3GPP. The 3GPP develops the technical specifications (TS), publishes the TSs under the system ‘Releases’. Each 3GPP Release provides a set of stable features and its functionalities, for the implementation of features at a given point and then permit for the addition of new functionality in the subsequent Releases. The latest Release-15 (Rel-15), published in Dec-2018, specified the first set of TSs for 5G system. As the Release-15 work (often referred as ‘5G Phase 1’) has matured and drawn to 100% completion, the working groups in 3GPP are focusing now on Release-16 (referred as ‘5G Phase 2’) on the enhancements, which is planned to be published in first quarter of 2020, as shown in Figure 1, which is published by the 3GPP[1].

This paper provides an outline of the background to the evolution to 5G security aspects and the track the industry/3GPP forum is convincing to realise the benefits that will arise from the deployment of 5G cellular system. The security mechanism in 5G systems has evolved right from the original analog systems through Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) and LTE. The 3GPP [1] has standardized 5G security mechanisms for authentication and authorization of the subscription, protection (integrity protection and/or encryption) of Access Stratum (AS) signalling messages, Non-Access Stratum (NAS) signalling messages, user data traffic and inter/intra operator network interconnect in its specification TS 33.501[3].

Figure 1: 3GPP 5G Release schedule [1]

2 Home Control Enhancements

A. Home Participation in Authentication procedure

Currently, establishment of roaming agreements are based on the trust relationship between the roaming partners. Some operators may wish to decrease the amount of blind trust they have on the roaming partners, as the visited operators, e.g. providing wrong location information of the inbound roamers, for claiming manipulated charging information, may abuse the trust. Thus, the home network operator needs to determine that the subscriber’s location update requested by the roaming partner to the home network has really been authenticated through the visited network, which claims it. In addition, the visited network should not deceive the confirmation message from the User Equipment (UE) with a reasonable probability. Therefore, in 5G system, the AKA method is enhanced to provide an authentication confirmation from the UE via the visited network to the home network. With a direct endorsement from the UE, the home network confirms that the authentication is successful. To obtain such endorsement of the UE’s presence in visited network, the home expects an endorsement parameter XRES from the UE via the visited network, similarly the visited network also expects a response from the UE to verify the authenticity of the UE. So when the UE provides the response RES, the visited network computes the HRES and once it matches, then the response (RES)em>obtained from the UE is further provided to the home network, so that home network checks whether RES is same as XRES. If it is same, then the UE presence is endorsed and the home network honours the location update from the visited network.

Figure 2: Enhanced Authentication Mechanism for more Home Network Control

B. Secure connection between the UE and the Home Network

Unlike the early systems, the 5G system supports end-to-end security between the home network and the UE, for security provisioning of the configuration parameters, using the control plane. Until 5G, the provision of the home network parameters are done as proprietary mechanism (Over-the-Air mechanisms) and there is dependency on the 3rd parties (e.g. Operation and Management servers). The 3GPP enhanced the key hierarchy of the 4G for the 5G and introduced a new key KAUSF, derived by the AUSF and the UE, after successful authentication for e2e protection, as shown in Figure 3 [3]. By this enhanced key hierarchy, the home network can securely provision the home network configuration parameters like, preferred PLMN list, Routing ID, like so, when the UE is in roaming.

Figure 3: Enhanced Key hierarchy to support e2e protection between the Home network and the UE
Pages ( 1 of 4 ): 1 234Next »

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.