5G is the fifth generation of cellular network technology – and it seems to have unlimited potential. The current technology is at a basic level, but its ultimate potential will take time to realize. Forbes tech writer, Bob O’Donnell, explains, “yes, eventually, the capabilities that 5G will enable will be profound and, quite honestly, likely well beyond our current imagination, but for the next two years or so, it’s basically going to be about faster wireless networks.”
The soft launch of 5G means that businesses will have time to ramp up security efforts. Like any technological advancement, 5G comes with new security risks. To understand this risk, we must first know a bit about 5G, an incredibly complex technology. Unlike previous generations of cellular network platforms, 5G isn’t just an increase in connection speed; it has many more nuances and complexities in its very infrastructure.
Here are some characteristics of a 5G network:
● All data is encrypted, integrity protected, and subject to mutual authentication (i.e., device to network)
● Can support up to a million devices per square kilometer, whereas 4G supports up to 100,000 devices per square kilometer
● Initially, 5G devices will also be able to operate on 4G networks until all the old equipment is replaced
● 5G will use millimeter waves, which are short and dense. They can’t travel far but they can carry a lot of data. All 5G devices will need to support the millimeter wave in order to achieve the super-fast transfer speed that experts predict it can reach.
Are businesses prepared for 5G?
A new report commissioned by AT&T Cybersecurity shows that many companies are unprepared for the security risks of 5G. While 5G standards include built-in security features, companies that rely on the network infrastructure alone may be susceptible to threats. While 73% of companies surveyed said that they’re worried about the security risks that will come along with 5G, only 16% said that they have already started updating security strategies.
According to the AT&T Cybersecurity report, the main security concerns about 5G companies expressed were:
● The larger attack surface
● The number of devices on networks
● Extending security policies to new IoT devices
● Having to authenticate a larger number of devices
European countries also expressed concerns about 5G technology in a recent report, referencing China, which has become a global leader in 5G, and the broad use of the technology in general. Security risks cited include:
● 5G networks will be increasingly based on software, which will create more exposure and potential entry points for attacks
● The physical equipment of the 5G network may become more sensitive, and thus, more prone to attacks
● With the advent of 5G, mobile network operators will be more reliant on suppliers, which can increase the number of pathways that can be exploited by attackers
How can businesses address 5G security concerns?
Fast technological change can be daunting, even frightening. However, there are two basic tactics businesses can employ to provide upgraded security for a 5G world. Since 5G technology is very new, it will take time for businesses and security experts to develop more complex strategies. These are a good start:
● A zero-trust security model, which essentially overcomes the challenge of numerous devices on the network. Zero-trust means that organizations do not trust anything inside or outside the perimeters of their network. Rather, everything must be verified before connecting to its system.
● Virtualized automated security controls, machine learning, and threat detection intelligence are essential, with a zero-trust policy or without, because the chances of robotic devices accessing the network are great. Combine robotics with a vast network, and the result is a security landscape that needs automation, AI, and security experts who take a more active role in the security process.
Perhaps the most important act business owners and IT managers can do is to become educated about 5G and explore options. The main thing not to do is to bury your head in the sand.