The GTP (GPRS Tunneling Protocol) is one of the major mobile core protocols used since to transfer data in the core mobile network. Mobility and data are exploding and this trend will continue with VoLTE, 5G, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The role of GTP in mobile networks will continue to remain critical.
With the mobile network ever growing importance as the communication channel for data rich application on mobile devices, connected intelligent devices and the IoT, comes the growing potential for attacks on the mobile infrastructure.
Introduction to GTP
GTP as a Potential Attack Vector
GTP’s role in transferring data in the core mobile infrastructure makes it a potential ideal attack vector. To understand the security features for GTP we need to understand the risks that might compromise this protocol. The business impact might varies in-between the different attacks from Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that hinders the capability of performing a legitimate operation due to resource starvation (for example – not being able to charge the customer for GPRS traffic use due to denial of service attack on the Charging GW) to remote compromise attacks that allows the hacker to have remote control of a critical device (for example – take control over a GGSN).
GTP-based attacks may have a wide range of business impact, based on the attacked devices’ vulnerability, ranging from service unavailability, compromise customer information, and gaining control over infrastructure elements, just to give a few examples.
Listed below are the main categories of GTP-based attacks:
- Protocol anomaly attacks are packets and packets formats that should not be expected on the GTP protocol. These can include malformed packets, reserved packets’ fields and types, etc.
- Infrastructure attacks are attempts to connect to restricted core elements, such as the GGSN, SGSN, PGW, etc. l Overbilling attacks results in customers charged for traffic they did not use or the opposite of not paying for the used traffic.
Protecting Against GTP-Based Attacks: The Carrier Grade GTP Firewall
With the evolution of the mobile network so has GTP evolved. The awareness to the potential of GTP-based attacks has led mobile core vendors to harden their software to better deal with a potential attack. Alongside this evolution, network security vendors, such as Fortinet, has led the way in providing specific GTP aware firewalls to secure and protect the different versions of the GTP protocol from potential attacks.
A GTP firewall should be placed where GTP traffic and session originate and terminate, as shown in the below diagram, and has to inspect both the GTP-C (Control Plane) and GTP-U (Data Plane) packets that, together, constitute the GPRS Tunneling Protocol.
The GTP firewall in both cases is placed in line between the SGSN / SGW and the GGSN / PGW which are the initiator and terminator of the GTP traffic. One of the main roles of GTP firewall is also to be able to support the roaming between different versions of GTP without interrupting the service.
The GTP firewall must be carrier grade in its ability to scale and provide high availability without impact its ability to provide effective protection.
FortiGate with FortiCarrier – The Leading GTP Firewall
FortiGate is Fortinet’s physical security platform, built specifically for high performance and scalability with the utilization of specialized FortiASIC technology. Fortinet Content Processors (CP) and Network Processors (NP) enable, offloading CPU intensive tasks and allowing the FortiGate to provide carrier grade performance and scalability. Utilizing the power of the FortiGate platform, FortiOS, Fortinet’s security Operating System, provides threat intelligence and advanced functionalities to provide effective security, ranging from Carrier Grade NAT (CGNAT), firewalling, IPSec, etc.
FortiCarrier is the part of FortiOS which was specifically designed to provide security for specific carriers and mobile operators’ protocols and requirements, such as awareness and security for GTP. The wide range of FortiGate platforms with FortiOS and FortiCarrier enables mobile operators to cost effectively secure their mobile network against GTP-based attacks, while ensuring unparalleled performance, availability and security effectiveness.
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