What you need to know about 5G security threats

The security threat landscape surrounding 5G: What you need to know?

5G is a massive step forward for the world of communications and technology, and it’s almost within reach. Australian telecommunications companies have announced plans to begin rolling out 5G as early as 2019.

5G is expected to be around 10 times faster than 4G. It will allow consumers and developers to keep pace with rapidly increasing voice and data traffic, and it is expected to provide capabilities for new technologies like the IoT (Internet of Things). Additionally, many major technology companies are getting ahead on developing technology to allow them to already have momentum during the 5G implementation phase.

The power and potential of 5G goes way beyond enabling super fast video streaming with zero lag time and full-length movie downloads within seconds.  Undeniably, there are infinite possibilities in the years ahead. But along with these possibilities come increased security threats.

Security challenges in the 5G era

Until now, smartphones are used mostly for texting, calling, surfing the Internet or accessing app services. The new 5G technology will not only deliver a faster and more stable mobile network for these activities, but it will also enable infrastructure for other services. 5G will be rooted in many areas of technology, and its reach will be extensive.

Internet-connected devices will soon fill our homes. While the convenience and possibilities of having a “smart home” are an exciting prospect, every device connected to a network will act as a potential entry point for destructive security threats. Increased use of IoT devices will enhance vulnerability, especially if we see manufacturers of these devices prioritize lower costs over additional security features.

The threat of automotive cyberattacks is expected with driverless cars and autonomous transport becoming more widespread. Having vehicles operate via the internet opens them up to possible hacking and sabotage, which is a concerning prospect.

The security threats of 5G aren’t just a concern for ground-level consumer applications, such as someone being able to access smart home networks. The 5G network will handle biometrics for authentication, devices for medical identity and analytics, wearable technology and much more. This also includes tech facilitating smart home and smart city. This data represents a huge amount of vulnerability if it is ever hacked.

Innovations enabled by 5G will also need to focus on improved security for tackling identity theft, data management and invasion of privacy. The immense number of devices, in addition to increased use of virtualization, will result in many more 5G security threats along with a wider, multifaceted attack surface. 

Tackling the Threats

With our homes, workspaces and lives becoming more and more connected, the importance of keeping them secure has also become higher than ever before.

Fire detectors are installed in our homes and offices because we know that a fire in the building can cause severe damage to the property and may also threaten life. However, while an IoT connected “smart” smoke detector might be able to provide additional security, if it’s connected to a home network even a smoke alarm could potentially be capable of being the entry point for a data breach.

Before 5G is rolled out, there is a pressing need to centre the focus on maximizing security.

Smart devices make lives easier. However, it’s important to understand the potential risks to minimize vulnerabilities.

IoT devices should strive to follow the best cybersecurity practices and come with integrated security features. Using security features on Wi-Fi routers, external security tools and network scanning will also strengthen the defence. Smart homes equipped with internet-connected-devices will need ever-stronger authentication methods like biometric identification.

Solutions to tackle security threats for corporate networks

Corporate networks can prevent security threats by using firewalls to protect the network. Intrusion detection and prevention tools can be considered to control and block basic 5G threats. Identifying and fixing advanced malware will be more important than ever before. Companies will also need to use sandboxing to deploy behaviour-based checks on the endpoints, which can help discover threats.

Basic filters cannot identify threats and anomalies like big data or machine learning technology can. If these technologies are embedded into network switches and routers, those devices can be turned into sensors for detecting a 5G security threat. Integrating and observing DNS activity is also essential to prevent malicious activities.

The next step.

As 5G creeps closer towards becoming a reality, the potential for security threats will accelerate. Therefore, building security into the 5G from the outset is vital. It is also equally important to evaluate and measure the possible threat and attack vectors now so that countermeasures to enhance the security posture of 5G can be developed before its rollout.

With every new technology comes some uncertainty about how it will be used and the potential for misuse. The benefits of 5G will undoubtedly far outweigh any risks. However, it’s important to acknowledge at this early stage that the risks could be significant, and put safeguards in place to stop problems before they become a major threat.

 

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.