August 31, 2023

5G Cybersecurity Reference Architecture Development

This project’s goal was to survey, document, and provide guidance on implementation of state-of-the-art options for cybersecurity protection in a private 5G network system.


Manufacturers must protect wireless network architectures and systems from cyberattacks to safeguard their intellectual property, secure their operational technology, and run effectively with minimized downtime.

Many have moved to, or are considering a move to, a 5G wireless network to improve efficiency.

While 5G is inherently more secure when compared to Wi-Fi networks, it can still contain undiscovered vulnerabilities from a cybersecurity perspective.

One challenge is the differences in cybersecurity risk with the types of 5G networks: public (usually provided by a telecom carrier) or private.

Another is that different use-cases require different 5G architectures, which in turn require customization of cybersecurity measures. For the private networks this project focused on, there are a variety of use-cases. Typical examples include networking different types of sensors and actuators; high-bandwidth applications such as augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) systems; and automated guided vehicle/autonomous mobile robot (AGV/AMR) and factory yard-management applications.

Proposed Solution

The team from OPEX Systems and the University of Michigan-Dearborn documented cybersecurity measures within 5G networks and created a guidebook analyzing five private 5G architectures and describing matching cybersecurity solutions for these architectures. Additionally, the guidebook detailed each solution, providing information on why it was selected as the best option for the target 5G system.

The recommendations incorporated insights from subject matter experts as well as complementary cybersecurity guidance information previously developed by U.S. government-affiliated organizations.

This guidebook is now available to manufacturers.

The target audience is workers at advanced manufacturing locations with a private 5G-based network or where one is being considered. The guidebook is suitable for managers and technologists involved in factory communication infrastructure and the related cybersecurity management. Early adopter 5G pilot projects focused on manufacturing research and development centers can also benefit from this guidebook.


Cybersecurity is a crucial consideration as manufacturers move to 5G networks. It is anticipated that many of these 5G deployments will rely on license-free, mid-band, Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) technology. It is also expected that the CBRS will be a more economical option for small- and medium-sized manufacturers. However, the cybersecurity processes and techniques described in this guidebook are applicable to 5G deployments with telecom carriers.

This project gives all manufacturers a guidebook with information they need on cybersecurity considerations, requirements, and recommended architectures to help secure 5G networks.


This guidebook is developed to help with the effort of securing 5G networks in industrial OT/IoT environments. Since it is anticipated that many of the 5G deployments will be using license-free, mid-band, CBRS technology to implement 5G networks for industrial applications, the primary focus of this guidebook is private 5G. It is also anticipated that the CBRS will be a more economical option for small and medium-sized manufacturers. However, the cybersecurity processes and techniques described in this guidebook can also be applicable to licensed spectrum based 5G deployments, supplied by telecom carriers.

The guidebook recommendations incorporate insights gleaned from discussions with several subject matter experts in the subject area. It also incorporates complimentary cybersecurity guidance information previously developed by U.S. government affiliated organizations.