Answers to Frequently Asked Public Safety Networking Questions

August 27, 2019 Aaron Maben

Answers to Frequently Asked Public Safety Networking Questions

Cradlepoint tackles questions regarding security, connected devices & the Pathway to 5G

Digital and connected technologies are transforming public safety agencies by increasing accountability, improving first responder safety, and enhancing the way they serve the community. However, these groups must rely on always-on mobile networks to keep their mission-critical applications and devices up and running. These teams need technology to “just work” — anytime, anywhere — so they can focus on doing their jobs and trust that the technology will function.

Here are some answers to key public safety networking questions from real agencies, to help them on their path of implementing reliable connectivity at their headquarters and in their vehicles.

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Question: What are some of the most critical security issues you see agencies having to deal with when it comes to wireless networks? 

Aaron Maben:  When we’re talking about the connection from a Cradlepoint device to a cellular tower, that information is always going to be encrypted because there is a certificate on that SIM card that provides encryption for that wireless transmission. No matter what is being done on that network, it’s not able to be captured and read, by say, a local attacker who’s trying to intercept or listen in to that wireless traffic.

Another aspect to consider when we’re talking about wireless communications is WiFi and ensuring that you’re implementing secure WiFi configurations. My recommendation, and a security best practice, is to use WPA2 Enterprise integrated with AAA services, such as a RADIUS or TACACS+ that authenticates users that are trying to connect to the wireless network rather than having those users leverage a pre-shared key.

Finally, make sure that you’re using secure protocols such as IPSec and TLS (Transport Layered Security) as you’re transporting traffic through a cellular connection. Once that traffic leaves the cellular provider and goes out to the open Internet, it could be potentially exposed if it’s not encrypted via a VPN tunnel or TLS for web traffic.

Question: My agency is starting to look at body-worn devices. Which solutions would best address this?

Camera solutions are connecting to the network that the Cradlepoint is providing. So, Cradlepoint’s going to provide the connectivity. When looking at camera solutions, you’re going to focus on how they store evidence and how we implement transport of that evidence to be pushed to the actual service storage server.

Also, consider whether this solution will be hosted internally by the law enforcement agency or if it’s going to be stored in a cloud-based service that a camera provider is providing as part of that service. Depending on these things and how you will use the connectivity, my recommendation is to pair your body worn and dashboard camera solutions, along with other in-vehicle IoT devices, with a Cradlepoint in-vehicle router, such as the COR IBR900 or IBR1700.

Question: Can you talk a little bit more about the difference between LTE and other technologies like MiFi, 4G, and 5G?

Aaron Maben: When we’re talking about the different wireless technologies that are being used for wide area networks, right now the current standard is LTE Advance Pro or Gigabit-Class LTE, still commonly referred to as 4G or 4th generation LTE. This is going to continue to be a backbone for the implementation of 5G networks — the 5th generation of connectivity. However, if the 5G network is not available, LTE will continue to be used as a fallback. So, if you’re connected to a 5G network and you move outside of the range of that 5G network, especially if it’s utilizing  millimeter wave, then you’re going to be falling back to LTE, which is what is going to give you the mobile connectivity that you need for the near future.

When we’re talking about MiFi, that is referring to a consumer-grade device that a carrier would provide to an end-user typically included with their cellular data plan. This is just a simplified WiFi hotspot that’s leveraging the cellular connection and usually can’t support advanced configurations and is only designed to support maybe up to 5 users. Cradlepoint devices are designed with enterprise functionality in mind and supports routing and VPN Tunnels and can handle more connected users.

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