Chief Technology Officer of SS8 Networks, Dr. Cemal Dikmen, sat down with FierceWireless to discuss how 5G will deal with cyber threats linked to full 5G deployments.
SS8 Networks bills itself as a company that’s “evolved into a global Lawful Intelligence expert, focusing on interception, mediation, and monitoring of next-generation networks and communications analysis.” SS8 can help law enforcement agencies worldwide combat organized crime and terrorism. Dr. Dikmen has a reputation for being a trusted advisor on potential 5G security issues and solutions available. Check out the full interview with FierceWireless below.
Kevin Gray: All right. Hi everybody. My name is Kevin Gray, publisher of Fierce Wireless and I’m here today with Dr. Cemal Dikmen, CTO of SS8. We’re going to dive into a lot of things today, including 5G, lawful intercept and more. We’re just going to go ahead and jump right into it, but first things first, Cemal, if you could please just tell me a little bit about yourself and SS8 to start things off.
Dr. Cemal Dikmen: Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity to be part of this, Kevin. Let me start with SS8 first. SS8 was founded in around the year 2000 as a next generation communications company when [SIP 00:00:44] was actually replacing the traditional SSL networks and that’s where the name, actually, SS8, comes from.
Always being at the leading edge of secure communication technologies and with the rules coming from the original SS8, we have evolved into will expert for communication networks data and content delivered to law enforcement agencies for law enforcement solutions around the world.
These days, obviously, cloud is a big initiative, so our fully cloud native solutions have been tested in many environments, including 5G. We also ventured into location technology as it’s a significant source of intelligence. Also, as encryption becomes more prevalent in all communications, we also focus on network intelligence based on metadata.
Our solutions today make collecting, monitoring, visualizing, analyzing complex data simple and we help law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies around the world to stop series of organized crime, cash criminals and prevent terror attacks. For communication service providers, we provide a trusted foundation to comply with the regulatory requirements both efficiently and effectively.
About myself, I’m the chief technology officer at SS8. I work with our customers. These are either service providers or government agencies and our partners such as telecom and networking equipment manufacturers. I work also internally with our technical folks to deliver long term solutions that solves not only today’s, but tomorrow’s problems as well.
Now, I always worked in the technology, starting with my education, all through my career. I’m an engineer at heart. My career started working on SSL technology in the early 1990s. I got involved with the first [Cali 00:02:41] implementations in the US in late 1990s while I was working for a company, ADC Telecommunications. Then, I joined SS8 in 2001 and I spent the last 20 years working with both telecommunication service providers and government agencies to provide those with solutions.
Kevin Gray: Obviously, there’s a lot of discussion around 5G right now. How does that impact SS8 and lawful intercept for communication service providers?
Dr. Cemal Dikmen: For starters, I first want to talk about my first true 5G experience. I have a 5G phone I bought when iPhone was first introduced and then, obviously, I have 5G coverage here and there, especially in large cities. On almost all those cases, it was really difficult to differentiate 4G from 5G. However, about three months ago, I was at Washington Reagan National Airport. I was at the gate area waiting for my flight. It was in the evening probably, I think around 6:00, 7:00 PM and even during the pandemic, the airport was quite busy, people waiting for their flights and I saw on my phone, instead of saying 5G, it said 5G UW, which stood for ultra wideband.
I’m like, okay, I got curious. I opened my favorite test speed app immediately and I did a speed test and at that time, my download speed was 1.2 gigabit per second and my upload speed was 18 megabit. And then, a few weeks ago, I was exactly at the same airport, I did exactly the same thing. My download speed this time was 1.9 gigabit per second. So obviously, this is a lot faster than what we experienced on 4G. I also wanted to see how it would impact how I use my phone. I opened the software update app, I clicked on the software update, I had 45 applications that needed to be updated and normally, each application, if you have done it on iPhone or Samsung, it takes about a minute for every update. On that thing, it was in less than five seconds. Bing, bing, bing. I was done updating 40, 50 apps in a little less than a minute.
That kind of made me excited about what 5G can open. Obviously, in terms of impact to the communication service providers or government agencies, of course, the speed and the amount of data that 5G networks can support and transmit will have an impact on both service providers and law enforcement agencies because they will have to carry large amounts of data through their networks, but also, on the law enforcement side, they not only need to store this data, but also analyze very large amounts of data. Obviously, this is a lot different.
The faster speeds and low latency will also allow software developers to develop new applications and many of these, obviously, some of them are already here like self-driving cars, drones doing shipments, augmented reality, virtual reality, and so many others. 5G will also enable some of these new applications and it will probably have a major impact on how we are going to live tomorrow. At the same time, these applications will provide, obviously, new challenges for the law enforcement.
From a carrier perspective, though, carriers invest a lot of money in their 4G, when you’re using our phone, I’m sure you see as much 4G coverage as 5G. And in 5G, normally, a carrier will have to deploy 10 times more antennas for 5G networks than what they did in 4G because of the dense requirements for antenna.
Therefore, deployment of 5G networks will take several years. Therefore, during this time, 4G and 5G interoperability will be critical and it’s very important for both law enforcement and service providers to actually support interoperability between 4G and 5G. And from a [inaudible 00:06:41] perspective, that interval will be critical because if you do not support the bulk networks, you are going to have coverage issues on the [inaudible 00:06:51] side. Either you are going drop coverage on 4G or 5G, but you have to have ubiquitous coverage when you go from, as a subscriber, from 4G to 5G. So therefore, in a very short answer, the answer is, the carriers and law enforcement agencies will actually have to upgrade their existing infrastructure to be able to support 5G because not only amount of data, but new standards, new protocols and everything else and new applications. It’s going to require a major upgrade for both sides.
Kevin Gray: Great. Let’s dive a little bit deeper into the intelligence agency side of things. Will 5G also have an impact on that crowd?
Dr. Cemal Dikmen: Oh, yeah, of course, it will have a big impact. Obviously, it will have the impact on the infrastructure, that’s kind of given, but let’s also look at some of the applications for 5G. Think about, we are talking about self-driving cars, remote control drones and everything else. These things can be loaded with explosives and driving down the road on highway or flying in the sky, so therefore, these create great challenges and threats to society. 5G also enables new types of devices, what we call internet of things. These things are anywhere from sensors that we use in the cars or trucks or wifi camera stuff that we use at home, so a variety of things.
If you think about some of the issues that could happen, a cybercriminal hacking into these sensors in the cars or trucks and wreaking havoc on the highways or another cybercriminal turning on and off the air conditioning on those wifi camera starts on a regular basis during a really hot day, wreaking havoc on the power grid. Artificial intelligence also is becoming very important. Combine 5G and artificial intelligence, cyber criminals are already thinking about impacting financial systems or hacking into financial systems. All those are pretty significant issues. They may be kind of farfetched today, however, when you look at it, these types of trust will become real very soon, so therefore, intelligence and law enforcement agencies will actually have to rethink how they do investigations and how they prevent crime going forward because it’s going to be a little bit different in the 5G world.
Kevin Gray: Great. You talked about some of those 5G use cases that intelligence agencies are going to have to be ready for, but do you think they’re ready right now?
Dr. Cemal Dikmen: The honest answer is no. First of all, I talked about both law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Some of the words that I see is, “Oh, 5G is just 4G on steroids, so what’s the big deal, right?” Anything about steroids, right? Steroids can improve performance maybe 50%, 100%. But in case of 5G, sometimes, the performance improvement is 50 times, 100 times. So that one, this is not only on steroids, this is a whole different new technology.
Also, another thing that actually concerns me more is, some of these agencies are testing 5G today, right? 5G is available today. You look at the US, even other countries, 5G technology is available today. However, what is available today is what we call option three. Carriers have deployed 5G radio. However, they have not replaced their 5G core networks yet. Therefore, this is kind of a hybrid environment, so the the entire spectrum of 5G or all the benefits of 5G are not realized yet. These law enforcement agencies are testing what they think that they are testing of 5G, but they’re actually testing option three, which is 4G core.
Therefore, they’re saying, “Oh, all our applications are currently working, so we really don’t need to do anything about 5G.” Guess what? Most of the carriers today in the US, as we talk now, you kind of know their schedules, but the 5G core deployments will actually happen sometime middle to late 2022. This is when things will get really ugly because law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies, sometimes, all of a sudden, will have a major impact when that core switches because switching of the core is going to be pretty subtle. In the case of radio, you have to deploy antennas one by one, it’s a slow rollout, but 4G core replacement, that’s going happened pretty quick and I think they’re going to be caught off guard, to say the least.
Kevin Gray: Great. Okay, Cemal. We have time for one more question here. We talked about what 5G means to the operators, we talked about what it means to some of the agencies. Now, what do you feel is the role of SS8 in all of this and in, particularly, lawful interception?
Dr. Cemal Dikmen: First and foremost, we are a trusted advisor to communication service providers and law enforcement agencies, and having been in the industry as a leader for over 20 years, we started working on 5G back in 2008 so we have been in lab trials, proof of concepts, first off applications, you call it. We have spent the last three years working on 5G, so we have a lot of experience about the challenges, solutions to these challenges and workarounds for these problems. We are happy to share our experience with the industry and the community. What we want is that we want to be a trusted advisor to these both communication companies and government agencies. However, of course, we want to be careful doing this because we don’t want to do this in a public forum because we don’t want criminals to understand how we do what we do and then avoid detection in the future. Therefore, we are always happy to share our expertise and experiences in closed forums and within our ecosystem.
But second, we want our customers to be partners for us. Obviously, we have a lot of experience, but we also know that our customers such as law enforcement agencies, the analysts, investigators, they have been working on stopping and preventing crime, prosecuting crime for many years and we want to know their challenges so that we can actually help them solve these challenges. Therefore, we want this to be a two-way street. While we share our experience and expertise, we want them to tell us about their problems so that we can work together solving not only today’s problems, but also tomorrow’s problems as well.
Kevin Gray: Okay, great. Cemal, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your expertise. Hope to do this again soon.
Dr. Cemal Dikmen: Oh, thank you so much. Thanks for having me.