5G is a new digital system for transforming bytes (data units) over air. This new interface uses milometer wave spectrum. It enables the use of more devices within the same geographic area. For example, 4G can support 4,000 devices per square kilometer (.62 miles). 5G will support around 1 million devices in the same area. And those 1 million devices will operate at ultra-fast speeds. We’re talking exponentially faster download and upload speeds with hardly any latency (the time it takes devices to communicate with wireless networks).
The world is still in the throes of the pandemic. That is true. But the pandemic hasn’t slowed the adoption of 5G. Most companies continue to implement 5G networks. This technology has the potential to transform the lives of people around the world.
However, legislation and security will have to keep pace, to protect against numerous potential threats.
According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), at the end of March 2020, 70 mobile network operators launched the 5G commercial network in 40 countries. Sixty-three of those launched mobile services, (57 full launches, 6 limited availability launches). Thirty-four operators had launched 5G fixed wireless access or home broadband services (27 full launches, 7 limited availability launches).
Despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the spread of 5G technology continues. Measures like social distancing have delayed the launch of 5G services in some countries. Operators had to stop. Mobile companies in other countries keep launching 5G network.
Joe Barrett, president of GSA, says, “We have all been surprised by how 5G has taken off. Deployments and commitments from across the globe have picked up pace. There are commercial launches in the world’s largest mobile market. The combination of these milestones will lead to an explosion in 5G users.”
“5G has the potential to cover up to 65 percent of the world’s population with 2.6 billion subscriptions by 2025. An Ericsson Mobility Report. says it will generate 45% of the world’s total mobile data traffic.”
5G Connection Technology & Advantages
5G is the 5th generation wireless connection. It represents the most advanced leap forward in mobile technology. At the speed of 20 Gbps, which is 20 times faster than 4G, 5G promises a faster and more reliable technology. Users can transfer a much larger amount of data with a latency of one millisecond. Connected vehicles, remote medical procedures, smart homes, and smart cities become reality. We are entering the age of big data. There are huge opportunities for digital service providers. Huge amounts of Data and metadata will be collected through their services. Phone companies are already releasing 5G mobile devices.
A study by Ericsson found that 5G adoption would come in three phases:
1. Premium smartphone downloads of content in seconds rather than minutes.
2. 5G home wireless broadband to challenge traditional cable TV (video and broadband delivered video).
3. 5G hot zones of ultra-high speed in demanding locations like airports, offices and shopping areas.
5G Risks & Threats
In a March 3, 2020 article in the digital magazine CIO, Jaikumar Vijayan reports on the security risks that will accompany the benefits of fifth-generation cellular networks. In the article, he quotes vice-president of Gartner Research Katell Thielemann, “5G is emerging as an accelerator to deployment. But it is also a source of concern from a security standpoint. Speed to market and cost considerations are taking precedence over security considerations.”
The resulting complex digital connectivity could prove to be a weakness. Modern life becomes dependent on connected technologies. This hyper-connectivity amplifies existing dangers and creating new ones. With the extended adoption of 5G, the world will be more connected. Data will be continuously exchanged between devices and applications. The threat of cyberattack will increase. There will be a greater number of vulnerable entry points to a network. There will be many opportunities to attack 5G infrastructures. This includes billions of IoT devices, and next private networks, that were not connected before.
Some of the weaknesses that have been discovered so far:
˃ High reliance on suppliers, some of which are state-backed, could pose risks of cyber attacks from some countries to others.
˃ 5G networks will be introduced gradually, so old 3G / 4G networks and new 5G architecture will have to coexist for a while, which will increase security concerns. The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) highlights, in its latest report on future 5G threats in terms of cyber security, the following protocols of concern: TCP / IP (DHCPv4), SS7 / Diameter, SIP, TLS, ARP, BGP.
˃ The network has moved away from centralized, hardware-based switching to distributed, software-defined digital routing.
˃ 5G further complicates its cyber vulnerability by virtualizing higher-level network functions, in software, formerly performed by physical appliances.
˃ 5G creates more entry points for attackers.
˃ Even if it were possible to lock down the software vulnerabilities within the network, the network is also being managed by software, often early-generation artificial intelligence, that itself can be vulnerable. According to Steve Durbin, Managing Director of the Information Security Forum (ISF), “Nation states, terrorists, hacking groups, hacktivists, and even rogue competitors will turn their attention to manipulating machine learning systems that underpin products and services.”
˃ Increase in short range communications will require many more cell towers that will potentially bring more attacks from cyber criminals.
Cybersecurity & Measures
Cyber accountability requires a combination of market-based incentives and appropriate regulatory oversight.
“With 5G networks there’s more computing functionality that you can deploy at the endpoint,” says Scott Crawford, analyst at 451 Research. That means organizations will need to pay more attention to tasks like identifying and validating endpoints. They will also need to ensure that their connected devices are in compliance with security policies before they interact with other devices or with sensitive data.
Techniques That Will Redefine Cybersecurity Approaches in the 5G Era
Reversing the under-investment in cyber risk reduction
The continuously changing environment requires organizations to make substantial investments in new technologies and processes. Companies will have to invest in compliance. New regulations will emerge.
Implementing machine learning and AI protection
There will be a major advantage of using AI-powered solutions.
Security products will continue self-learning and updating to fit a given environment.
Shifting from lagging indicators of cyber-preparedness (post-attack) to leading indicators
A 2018 White House report indicates a problem of under-reporting cybersecurity incidences. Failure to report such crimes inhibits the ability to respond immediately. and effectively.
Continued cooperation between the public and private sectors is the key to effectively managing cybersecurity risks. Both the private sector and government agencies working together can better share information and raise cybersecurity standards. This kind of coordinated effort can develop trust and accelerate the closure of the 5G gap. Such a program could also limit the damage when cyber attackers successfully penetrate a network.
Cybersecurity starts with the 5G networks themselves
All the networks that deliver 5G must have proactive cyber protection programs.
Insert security into the development and operations cycle
It’s more important to integrate security. Software, firmware, and hardware have to be better protected.
The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework has established five areas for best practices. The five areas are: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. These principles are the basis of industry best practices. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has helped produce an anti-botnet guide. It outlines best practices for device manufacturers.
“Cybersecurity will play a critical role, with organizations called to adopt a granular segmentation of their networks. The Zero Trust model will become a real standard,” explains Greg Day, VP and CSO EMEA of Palo Alto Networks. The Zero Trust approach is based on a simple principle: “never trust, always verify.” It’s assumed that any person, or device, requiring access is to be considered a potential threat. So authorized access to a specific areas are restricted.
An effective 5G defense strategy is based on 3 fundamentals:
1. Reduce risk by implementing a “Zero Trust” strategy, contrasting the increase in the perimeter that can be attacked.
2. Ensure the correlation of data flows in a roaming world and the visibility of the suppliers’ ecosystem.
3. Make sure cybersecurity strategy keeps pace with reducing latency and increasing data.
The Pace of Digital Innovation and Threats Requires a New Approach to the Business-Government Relationship
In a Brookings article, Tom Wheeler and David Simpson warn that “the toughest part of the real 5G race is to retool how we secure the most important network of the 21st Century. Never have the essential networks and services that define our lives, our economy, and our national security had so many participants, each reliant on the other-and none of which have the final responsibility for cybersecurity. Here are some of the key take-away points:
˃ More effective regulatory cyber relationships with those regulated
˃ Recognition of marketplace shortcomings
˃ Consumer transparency
˃ Inspecting and certifying connected devices
˃ Stimulate closure of 5G supply chain gaps
˃ Re-engage with international bodies
Contracts aren’t enough. Most small and medium 5G network providers are not bound by any of government contracts.
5G and Privacy
People are always concerned about how tech companies treat their data. The GDPR in Europe and CCPA in California are legislation that protect personal data. To comply with GDPR, any company that collects, stores, and processes personal data has a significant set of obligations. There will be many actors in the 5G ecosystem interacting with personal data. Only a privacy-by-design approach to 5G can ensure their satisfaction. This is according to the first white paper of the 5G PPP Security Working Group.
Any future 5G system should be able to answer Lawful Interception (LI) requests. LI should be performed in a secure way without compromising the privacy of network users. The information provided must be verifiably trustworthy and securely delivered. Given packetized and dominantly encrypted network traffic delivery, a must-have technical building block of LI is Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). Without DPI, no analytic insights can be derived from live or recorded user traffic, thus rendering LI powerless.
“There is a lack of clear-cut security regulations for mobile wireless communications based on 5G at this point. The current 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) standards mainly apply to earlier mobile telephony protocols. They don’t fully address the emerging challenges.” says David Balaban, computer security researcher.
5G, the future of connectivity, is now a reality. Initial impressions are mixed. 5G is coming whether businesses and the public at large are ready for it or not. Navigating the transitional challenges is going to be quite an undertaking. There are privacy and security concerns. 5G providers, government, and businesses will have to collaborate to come up with solutions.
We can expect road bumps, hacks, and misappropriation of private data along the way. But 5G opens up a world of possibilities for everyone. Everyone can benefit. From the big-city executive to the farmer in Iowa using agricultural AI to support a greater crop yield.
This new network holds the key to advancing the spread of a slew of exponential technologies. It will set in motion fundamental changes to a industries and services. It’s just one more thing to make your world a little faster. Actually, it will make it a whole lot faster.
But here’s a question for you. Will 5G set the stage for what Jayshree Pandya, in a Forbes article, calls the troubling trajectory of technological singularity?