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5 application security risks telcos should look out for

 | 4 min read
5 application security risks telcos should look out for

The telco industry is ripe with application security risks—find out why

The telecommunications industry has seen its fair share of cyberattacks over the years, and these are only going to grow in frequency and sophistication.

Without a robust cybersecurity strategy in place, these vulnerabilities will persist. This is why security should be an ongoing effort in any telecom organization, and vulnerabilities must be systematically addressed to ensure protection.

For example, application security in telcos is an area that’s getting more attention, especially with the increasing focus on digitization and rapid technological advancements. Insecure mobile, web, video, broadcast, and other such applications can put sensitive company and customer data at risk. When breached, this can lead to large financial and reputational damages, privacy concerns, and eventually loss of customer trust.

A prime target for cybersecurity threats

In 2017, a multinational British telecommunications company suffered a data breach worth 5.9 million payment cards and 1.2 million personal data records. A year before that, the industry had to contend with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that targeted websites in over 50 countries. So, why exactly are telecom organizations considered lucrative to malicious actors and hackers?

Remember: telcos play a crucial role in facilitating modern communication and infrastructure management. Telecom companies keep the world connected by building, controlling, and operating vast networks, which are used to transmit and store massive amounts of sensitive data.

People rely on telecommunications services, networks, and equipment every day to call, message, email, and keep in touch with others. Entire economies are built on telecom infrastructure, which means that they’re often a gateway into multiple businesses. This is what makes the industry such an attractive target for cyberattacks.

Once inside the network, cyber criminals can launch various attacks, intercept calls, and access sensitive customer data. Consumers usually provide telecoms with a lot of personal information: names, addresses, financial data, and more. This makes it a hotspot for identity theft, fraud, and other critical privacy breaches.

The impact of such attacks is often far-reaching and expensive. In fact, even false claims will have the same impact as real cyberattacks. Organizations will often need to issue expensive refunds to compensate customers and repair reputational damages. To start an investigation, critical telecom services that a lot of businesses and consumers rely on will need to be shut down. Productivity, customer loyalty, and revenue are likely to decrease.

What’s more, there’s also the risks of advanced persistent threats by stealthy actors that can remain undetected for long periods of time. This is why it’s important to know what threats to look out for.

Cybersecurity teams, developers, and executives in telecom organizations should familiarize themselves with known application security attack vectors in order to effectively manage vulnerabilities and enhance security.

5 common application security vulnerabilities

While not an exhaustive list, here are some common security risks that telcos should consider, when developing, distributing, or even testing applications.

1. Exposure of sensitive data

Without extra protection, attackers can easily steal, modify, and sell sensitive company and customer data in telco applications: name, age, credit scores, location, even device usage. Credentials are particularly crucial, but unfortunately 74% of Fortune 1000 telecom employees are reusing passwords across accounts. This complacency with personally identifiable information can result in expensive data breaches and critical account takeovers.

2. Code injections

This happens when cyber criminals send invalid data, malicious scripts, or malicious codes to a trusted application for the purpose of performing unintended commands or altering its normal functioning. In other words, the application will execute something it was not programmed to do. Examples include cross-site scripting and SQL injection, which even enables remote access and control for the attacker.

3. Broken access control

Identity and access management is an essential part of cybersecurity but when done haphazardly or inefficiently, attackers can easily exploit the flaws. Bad actors can masquerade as trusted and authorized users in order to access critical functionalities, data, and other resources in telecom applications.

4. Security misconfigurations

When an application’s enterprise architecture isn’t maintained and configured on a regular basis, vulnerabilities arise such as unpatched flaws, unprotected libraries, and open cloud storage. This is particularly likely when insecure default configurations are kept. These risks can also increase the possibility of brute force attacks, where cyber criminals employ trial-and-error methods to guess credentials.

5. Cross-site scripting (XSS)

XSS is a security vulnerability that’s present in two-thirds of applications. It allows bad actors to inject malicious scripts and untrusted data into a website in order to steal or forge cookies, modify content, and hijack user sessions. It’s also possible to redirect users to malicious sites. There are three types: stored XSS, reflected XSS, and document object model (DOM)-based.

Secure applications for a risky industry

There is a broad range of telecom applications that consumers and companies alike use on a daily basis. This ubiquity plus the changing business and technological landscape has pushed cybersecurity to the forefront in telecommunications. Organizations who choose to respond to these threats and vulnerabilities will likely stay competitive and scale confidently. Those who don’t will have to contend with the risk of negative publicity, loss of revenue, and worst of all—angry customers.

About the author

Fiona Villamor

Fiona Villamor

Fiona Villamor is the lead writer for Sryas, a global technology company that delivers powerful insights and business transformations at scale. In the past 10 years, she has written about big data, advanced analytics, and other transformative technologies and is constantly on the lookout for great stories to tell about the space.

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