The Government has agreed a number of measures to enhance the security of electronic communications, including 5G networks. It has endorsed the ‘EU 5G Security Toolbox’ as the framework by which Ireland will secure its next generation electronic communications networks. The Cabinet decided on the underpinning key policy initiatives today (Tuesday, 23 November).
As part of the initiatives, the Government has announced the publication for consultation of the Electronic Communications Security Measures (ECSMs). These are a detailed set of technical and organisational measures that providers of public electronic communications networks and publicly available electronic communications services will be required to implement. This requirement will secure the electronic communications infrastructure within the State.
The Government also announced that it plans to introduce primary legislation which would allow the Minister of the Environment, Climate and Communications to assess the risk profile of providers of electronic communications network equipment and, if required, to designate certain vendors as being high risk. The legislation will also provide for certain parts of electronic communications networks to be designated as being critical and certain powers which would ensure that high risk vendors would not be used in our critical electronic communications networks.
No decision has been taken on individual vendors. Any assessment will follow clear objective criteria, such as those recommended in the EU 5G Security Toolbox, and follow a defined process set out in the legislation.
The legislation will be drafted in consultation with relevant Departments and Agencies, and a Regulatory Impact Assessment and consultation process will be conducted in early 2022.
The ECSMs will be open for consultation until 14 January 2022 and can be found at this link: gov.ie – Technical Stakeholder Consultation on Proposed Electronic Communications Security Measures (ECSMs) (www.gov.ie).
Our current electronic communications infrastructure is largely based upon 4G mobile networks and fixed broadband. Recognising the importance of the security of 5G networks to our future prosperity, Ireland, along with the other Member States of the European Union (EU), embarked upon a process to collectively assess the risks posed to the security of 5G networks – taking an objective and evidence-based approach.
The EU produced a comprehensive risk assessment which examined both the technical security concerns as well as the strategic risks associated with the deployment of 5G networks. The group produced a framework, known as the EU 5G Security Toolbox, which offers a comprehensive approach for Europe to secure its future networks. Ireland supports the EU 5G Security Toolbox. The measures outlined in this press release (above) represent Ireland’s implementation of this framework.
The EU 5G Security Toolbox provides the framework that can be used, whereby suppliers are assessed against a set of clear and non-discriminatory criteria and, in the case where a supplier is found to be high risk, they are to be excluded from critical and sensitive parts of the network, such as the core and other functions which control large parts of the network or process sensitive data. The risk assessment also highlights that risks also exist in less sensitive areas, such as the Radio Access Network (RAN).
For the past year the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, through the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), has been working closely with industry to produce a detailed set of security measures which address many of the technical security concerns highlighted through the European risk assessment process. These Electronic Communications Security Measures (ECSMs) are based upon industry standards and best practices, meaning Irish electronic communications networks will be amongst the most secure in the world. While in some cases the ECSMs will simply be formalising practices already in place, in many others it will represent a significant rising of the height of security bar.
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