Addressing The Cybersecurity Risks Of 5G Networks

The proliferation of 5G technology promises to usher in a whole new era. A hyperconnected future where everything from our workplaces to our homes and vehicles is brought online. Such a world represents a wealth of huge opportunities for businesses, but also some huge security risks. Understanding them is the first step towards addressing them.

Edge computing aside, 5G will be one of the foundational technologies of the Internet of Things. The computing demands generated by connected devices – even those that carry out most of their processing at the edge – are, simply put, enormous. Simply put, current wireless technology cannot keep up, and 4G networks are already nearing capacity.

4G LTE was designed for smartphones and a few connected accessories at most. It wasn’t made with the networking demands of IoT in mind. Granted, 5G wasn’t either – but it’s capable of speeds up to 100 times faster than its predecessor.

“5G will enable us to control more devices remotely in applications where real-time network performance is critical,” reads a post on the Ericsson blog. “With connectivity at the heart of industry transformation, 5G will have a key role to play – not just in the evolution of communication but in the evolution of businesses and society as a whole.”

I’m certain you already see where security plays into this whole equation. 5G is very much a double-edged sword. If we’re not careful, hyperconnectivity could be virtually catastrophic from a security standpoint.

The potential of compromised endpoints to be used for massive denial of service attacks is only the tip of the iceberg.

Unsecured IoT devices could be used as entry points for enterprise networks. Unprotected 5G connections could be intercepted, putting extremely sensitive data at risk. And at worst, technologies such as connected cars could wind up compromised, with devastating effect.

In order to address these threats, the first step is to improve security at the endpoint. From there, enterprises and vendors alike need to secure entire networks, from endpoint to endpoint. Every link in a chain needs to be secured, and every single point of contact must be fully trusted and secured.

“Trust is hugely important,” explains the McAfee blog. “Security must be designed into the 5G standards as part of the foundation, especially when considering its use in IoT connectivity. Privacy aspects, to give users more oversight, default anonymity, and choice, must be included in product and software designs. Systems that may represent a threat to people’s safety should possess elevated levels of security, administration, and control.”

Alright. That’s all well and good, but what exactly can you do within your own organization? How can you ensure security is woven into every facet of your business as you proceed into a more connected world?

  • Implement new forms of authentication based on harder-to-fake factors such as biometrics and user behavior.
  • Work with industry colleagues and thought leaders to help establish better frameworks and technology standards for IoT security.
  • Practice due diligence on all vendors and partners before you work with them – ensure they have the proper security standards in place to protect your data.
  • Design all internal applications and architecture to have security and trust built-in as a foundation.
  • Look into the possibility of decentralized, blockchain-based security measures as an alternative to traditional security such as firewalls.
  • Work with your employees to teach them the importance of mindfulness, and their role in securing IoT-based infrastructure.

5G will have an important role to play in the coming era of IoT. It’s thus not entirely surprising that the security risks of the two are inextricably tied up with one another. By understanding and mitigating the risks now – before we see widespread connectivity – businesses can get ahead of the game, and ensure that when they implement 5G and IoT, they do so safely and securely.