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Message in a 5G Bottle: What’s the Key?

“I’ll send an SOS to the world” - Sting

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), public safety officials rely on effective communication to serve those in need. We’ve come a long way since Morse code and telegraphy, but any dire message is moot if the delivery mechanism fails - as they do. Network providers are now readily available to support multi-agency communication during peak times and in rural areas, but first responders still face evolving challenges to protect victim and patient data.

So, just need to fire-up a quick security stack for police/fire/rescue and call it a day, right? Well, sort of..

There’s a not-so-little public/private partnership called FirstNet, and they’re well underway to improve agency interoperability. With 50 states and five U.S. territories opting-in for service on the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), identity verification is a top consideration and requires a security architecture to support the multitude of applications, users and devices.

If it hasn’t already, the term “zero trust” might ring a bell. By defining perimeters at the application access point - or anywhere you make an access decision - agencies can quickly authenticate badged officials from their field without the delay of sending network traffic through firewalls or VPNs; especially now that providers support significant 5G bandwidth for major incidents and rural jurisdictions.

At risk of more acronyms, NIST and DHS S&T fully support this initiative with relevant framework and first responder implementation guidelines. These step-by-step instructions on zero-trust principals are helping state and local governments streamline use cases across the enterprise with ICAM glue; sticky middleware that supports authentication via mobile device, biometrics, tokens, U2F, NFC, WebAuthN, etc..

Thankfully, we live in a time wherein security and convenience is at an intersection of agency missions. First responders can effectively increase their speed-to-safety by utilizing a variety of authentication methods to access all applications - while reducing risk of stolen keys to the crown jewels.