5G and Cybersecurity: Major Concerns on New Security Threats
We live in a digital era that is ever-hungry for what’s next, what’s new, and what’s better. When it comes to wireless technology, 5G is all of that. 5G is a technology many await to be available mainstream in the coming months. More and more devices and infrastructure are accommodating this technology so it can be enjoyed by the wider public. A lot of big industries have already begun transitioning to the 5G network amidst questions about its safety and the expense needed to fully convert to the 5G system. 5G is the future, and we see the way that the future is paved with increasing speed today.
What is 5G technology?
5G, or 5th generation mobile network, is the next global standard after 3G and 4g, which the rest of the world is using today. According to Qualcomm, “5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, objects, and devices.”
It is the next-generation of high-speed, low-lag wireless service. It is meant to provide almost 400x faster multi-Gbps peak data speeds at ultra-low latency and significantly increased network capacity, availability,reliability, andmore consistent user experience. It is expected to shape technological innovation and provide mobile data connections for virtualreality (VR) headsets, driverless cars, and other smart technologies.
5G complements and elevates other technologies like cloud computing, fog computing, edge computing, and the Internet of Things. IoT, in particular, can only run excellently on a 5G network. The higher data capacity increased reliability, and lower latency makes it enticing to consumers and industries that demand more excellent connectivity.
However, with this new technology comes new threats and risks to cybersecurity and privacy.
For instance, the USA enforced a tradeban against China-backed telecom company, Huawei, and its subsidiaries, as a result of an ongoing trade war between the US and China. The USA accused Huawei of working with China to spy on the country and the people. President Donald Trump released an executive orderbarring US companies from using information and communications technology from entities considered a threat to national security. Huawei was listed as part of that entity list. The order bars anyone from the US to buy parts and components from the company without the federal government’s approval. Several US firms stopped doing business with Huawei, including Google.
Despite all the restrictions on Huawei by different countries, the company continued to advance as the leader in the telecom industry, beating global brands in the 5G race by launching the world’s first 5G smartphone mid-2019. The HUAWEI Mate 20 X (5G) gave consumers a taste of the 5G premium experience of high-speed connectivity, higher data capacity, and superioruser experience.
Today, apart from Huawei, other telecom companies have joined the 5G bandwagon, such as Samsung with their Galaxy Ultra 5G, Oppo with their 5G Reno, Xiaomi with their Mi MIX 3 5G, and Motorola with their Moto Z3 5G. Apple’s iPhone is also rumoured to release its own 5G phone late this year, the iPhone 12.
But 5G is a technology, not just for phones. The transportation industry is hard at work in developing this technology, so smart-car systems can start benefiting people and save more lives. Smart cars connected to a massive 5G network of nodes and transmitters will be able to communicate with each other, avoid collisions, and real-time access data to be able to operate without a driver.
Smart cities of the future are also in the works, like Toyota’s Woven City, which will be built near Mt. Fiji in Japan. Woven City is like a “living laboratory.” Initially, it will house researchers and technology developers in itsfully-connected, hydrogen-powered ecosystem with autonomous devices and technologies operating in real life, day-to-day situations. Promising a better way of life and increased mobility, this smart city is going to be like a prototype for other smart cities of the future.
The Risks and Realities of this Technology Today
- Limited Infrastructure to receive the New technology
5G is such an exciting technology to think about if it were in full use today. The reality is, the infrastructure needed for this technology to be operational is still a long way off from becoming a reality in every city and country. If 5G is functional only in some locations but not the others, then it does not matter if you have a 5G phone in your hand. Without enough nodes and transmitters, for instance, 5G signals will be continuously interrupted by things such as obstructions and even bad weather.
- Privacy and Security
Another consideration that is causing apprehension in most people about adopting this technology is cybersecurity and privacy issues.
There are concerns that a company’s and customers’ sensitive data could be compromised much faster, too, due to cyber-attacks in a 5G world. IoT devices could also pose security risks for entire networks. Once hackers have gained access to the system, they can establish control over the system. This is not difficult to do, even by drive-by hackers of today. When IoT devices are overtaken by hackers, they can steal data, control devices, and cause physical damage to the entire network and everyone connected.
This is why 5G developers are hard at work to secure the technology from cybercrime and data breach.
For instance, anti-tracking and spoofing features were implemented to prevent hackers from infiltrating a network, track a device, and manipulate connections.
Encryption of data must also be increased in 5G technology. This should be the natural thing to do because this technology processes way more data you’re your regular 4G (LTE) network.
- New Vulnerabilities Unique to 5G Will Arise
Threats will be more sophisticated and complex in 5G networks. Every device connected to the system can be a potential vulnerability if robust security measures are not in place.
For instance, even a simple, smart fridge plugged into the network can be an access point for hackers. Even security cameras that are meant to protect a company can be hacked to access high-performance data networks. Security flaws in 5G are currently susceptible to MiTM or man-in-the-middle attacks.
5G networks still have a lot of kinks in their system that needs to be sorted out. A need for more robust, highly-encrypted, security solutions needs to be developed further.
- 5G Device Will Require the Implementation of Smarter Solutions
There are many ways to keep networks secure from hackers, but these are for the mainstream technologies of today. 5G devices cannot just run on 4G technology infrastructure. There needs to be new infrastructure and new security strategies. Smarter solutions need to be set in place before the technology becomes mainstream worldwide.
- Increased Bandwidth Will Stretch the Capabilities of Existing Cybersecurity Solutions
Current security measures are made to protect you well in 4G and 3G levels of bandwidth and threats. If you multiply the bandwidth capacity by immensely, that is the case with 5G networks, the exponential increase in bandwidth use requires massive cybersecurity upgrades that can handle these new capabilities. This renders most security solutions that are not yet compatible or ready to defend its users and networks in a 5G playing field.
5G is expected to reach 1.9 billion users by the end of 2024. To match the network’s capabilities, hardware, such as firewalls, which protects you from malicious software, will have to be upgraded, and security solutions developed again.
Conclusion: Cybersecurity Must Be Amplified in 5G Networks
5G is no longera future technology, but rather a growing reality. However, the excitement over the deployment of 5G networks comes with a caveat that new security threats are bound to rise up. Cybersecurity needs to undergo massive upgrades to keep up in the 5G era that has dawned upon us. Even as 5G is not yet in full bloom, other future technologies are already in development, like Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) networks and Quantum computing. Cybersecurity experts really need to amp their game, so they are more than capable of facing the dangers and threats that come with 5G.
John Ocampos is an Opera Singer by profession and a member of the Philippine Tenors. Ever since Digital Marketing has always been his forte. He is the Founder of SEO-Guru, and the Managing Director of Tech Hacker. John is also the Strategic SEO and Influencer Marketing Manager of Softvire Australia – the leading software eCommerce company in Australia and Softvire New Zealand.