5G is poised to drive cloud services, IoT, network virtualization, edge computing, and industrial IoT (IIoT), which can multiply the endpoint security complications. So, it is natural for anyone to have concerns about 5G security in mind. This post boasts answers to all such questions.
Probably, for a while now, you’ve heard the hype concerning the lightning-fast 5G network. Several myths surround this giant step in mobile networking, among them being the fact that it’s ready to roll.
One thing is for sure, 5G network promises faster as well as better internet with increased privacy and security, which is an upgrade from 3G and 4G.
Unfortunately, with all the positive promises that 5G has promised, there are several shortcomings as well that apparently you may not hear often.
Now, how well are you informed about this next generation work? Are you aware of the expected changes that it will bring? What about 5G security and privacy concerns?
You don’t have to worry anymore! You’re in the right place as this article will answer all your questions and keep you ready for the next big step-up.
So, what’s 5G?
First things first, 5G merely stands for Fifth Generation of mobile networks.
To this point, the mobile network has seen four previous generations, whereby 3G and 4G networks are the most popular, given that they have increased features.
Therefore, the 5G network that is still cooking (available only in some locations) will be the most up-to-date version of the mobile networks.
It’s expected in the near future, the 5G network will be available across the globe, and given its positive developments, we can’t wait to get there, right?
Tracking the Path: 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G
There’s no denying that technology has indeed evolved over the years. The best example is the long way that the generation of the mobile network has come thus far.
It all started from the 1G network that enabled the mobile networks to make communications with the radio towers that put an end to the landline calls.
Then the 2G network followed that made digital communication even easier, whereby folks could now text each other.
Connection to the internet was introduced thanks to the development of the 3G network, and when 4G grazed the globe, connection to the internet became even faster.
If 4G could do so much in terms of internet speed, what do we expect from 5G? And should we be worried about 5G security? You will find that all out in this article, keep reading.
5G and Internet Speed
If you thought you had seen it all with 4G in terms of faster internet speed, you still have time to think again.
5G security concerns aside, arguably the most significant advantage of 5G, higher speeds than 4G, is guaranteed. In fact, 5G would be hundred times much faster than 4G; sounds terrific, right?
What it means is you will no longer worry about delays as 5G is said to send data in just about under a millisecond.
Basically, with 5G, we’re talking about connecting to the internet in almost a flash and enjoying faster streaming of videos and other content.
The Possibilities: What Can a 5G Network Do?
But is 5G even necessary? The 4G network is doing pretty well as you can watch almost everything. So, why would you need a fast network again?
Notably, the 5G network has much more than just being faster and stable. Here are some of the things that 5G is capable of;
Longer Lasting Battery
We’ve all been there; you set up the mood to watch your favorite movie show, you turn your 4G network on, and you’re ready to go.
Then, unfortunately, after a few hours, your battery won’t let you enjoy the movie until the end.
Your battery will undoubtedly last longer when you have your 4G network turned off or turn on the airplane mode.
But, the fact is that if you want to receive or send some mobile data, then you need energy.
The good news is that the 5G network is looking to make things more convenient by ensuring that you watch your favorite TV show until the end.
What it means is that your battery will drain more slowly with 5G than 4G, which means you won’t be using your charger often. Now, imagine having an extended battery life with increased internet speed? Internet here we come!
Stable Connections in Congested Locations
Another problem that you might have experienced is the lags with 4G networks when in crowded areas such as airports, festivals, or schools.
That usually happens simply because 4G networks are easily overloaded.
In large groups of people, you experience lags when surfing the internet with a 4G network.
It’s a problem that the 5G network will solve, and no matter how the place you are is crowded with smartphones, your internet connection will be faster and stable.
What makes a 5G network more interesting about its stable connection is the ever-rising number of the demand for mobile data.
Several folks are now getting access to devices working with the networks and hence the need for a more stable network.
Almost all devices are using the internet to function at some point in sending and receiving data.
Therefore, the need for a more stable network connection is a no brainer, and that’s what the 5G network is meant to provide.
It allows companies, households as well as public places to simultaneously use a plethora of smart devices without an effect on the speed and quality of the network.
The surge in New Techniques and the ‘Internet of Things’
5G technology will bring a revolution in technology as a plethora of products and services will be created, and others that already exist will surge by miles.
For instance, the Internet of Things (IoT) is now expected to hit the sky.
Several new techniques, as well, are expected to hit new levels.
Think about what 5G network can do to the remote world; it means that now things will be happening in a better and safer manner.
Another field that is looking to benefit dramatically is the agriculture sector, whereby some systems such as irrigation mechanisms will be presented in a higher-level quality.
Have you ever even imagined a drone delivering your mail right up to your doorstep? Soon that could be the possibility, thanks to the 5G network.
It simply means that now machines could be more atomized as well as performing what they do more efficiently. New service delivery models will merely be on the rise as new actors will be introduced into the system.
Cloud, as well as virtualization technologies along with anything-as-a-service, will be used in reducing the costs, and optimize (and deploy) services more rapidly.
The telecom networks are expected to expose to a higher degree application programming interface (APIs) to users and third-party service providers; e.g., for optimized delivery by use of location awareness, cashing, and content adaptation.
Thanks to the new technology alongside evolved threat landscape that enables users to have alternatives that cost accountably less for programming their devices (at radio-access level, too), in the 5G network, attack resistance of the radio networks should be outspoken more clearly.
They will be able to analyze threats like denial of service from the potentially misbehaving devices, and mot interestingly adding some mitigation measures to the radio protocol design.
Therefore, the new possibilities in line with the 5G network around the globe are absolutely amazing to imagine.
As much as the 5G network will take the internet stability and speed to the next level, there’re many disadvantages that people fear it will bring.
5G and Our Privacy
There’s every reason to be excited about the upcoming 5G network.
All smart devices will be connected more easily, making our online lives bigger, whereby information is shared over a broad platform quickly.
The smart devices contain a lot of personal data saved, including our real lives.
Now the million-dollar question, how safe is this data? Is our privacy even guaranteed?
Apparently, it’s evident to say that the internet now knows so much about you than you know yourself.
So, is that a good thing after all?
I would say no.
Therefore, it’s one of those things that the 5G tech has to address apart from promising a variety of advantages.
What about Your Personal Information? Is it Safe?
The 4G network handles a lot of data, but the fact that the 5G technology is superior, it means that the data it will accommodate is enormous.
All the user information from your location, the websites you browse, personal documents in your phone, even the health information will be available in the 5G networks.
Unfortunately, the 5G network is available to all folks, the good and the bad (there’re those always on the lookout for opportunities to cause havoc to others).
On a personal level, your intentions are genuine that you’ll use the information in the right way as intended. But, the guy on the other side of the mirror may be planning against you.
Cybercriminals and hackers can use your personal data to cause problems whichever way they like. Moreover, some companies may look at it as an opportunity to milk some money from you by showing various ads.
Therefore, the more you sent data into the air, the more you increase your chances of the data falling into the wrong hands that may come to haunt you.
It’s a concern that the 5G network has been thrown into as nobody knows who might be watching your online data.
How Secure is 5G Network than 3G and 4G Networks?
5G network will undoubtedly make things more difficult for snoopers to track the users, but still, security holes are there as devices will keep connecting to the older networks.
One thing that the wireless industry is doing is to improve the defenses of the past generation networks (3G and 4G).
As a result, the 5G network has now been introduced, but still, with all its improvements, it has some shortcomings.
A couple of areas that 5G networks win is those related to anti-tracking as well as spoofing features.
The network has made it difficult for cybercriminals or hackers to track as well as manipulate your device connections.
That sector will be well managed by 5G encrypting more data, meaning that fewer data would be available for bad actors to access.
Unlike 3G and 4G, the fifth-generation network is also much more of a software and a cloud-based system (compared to previous wireless networks), meaning it allows better monitoring of any spot potential threats.
Furthermore, it will enable network slicing (splitting the system into several virtual networks managed and customized separately).
That way, various slices have different tailored protections for particular types of devices.
Basically, slicing will offer manufacturers and many more a dedicated network that they can be in full control of as well as support their Internet of Things solutions.
Therefore, an extra element of security is provided that WiFi can’t offer, especially with 3G and 4G networks.
But are there any 5G vulnerabilities, I hear you ask?
The previous generation networks have had their own unresolved flaws that even with the 5G network, still, can allow for a “downgrade” attack to the previous generation versions, and an attacker utilizes the flaws there to go around anything.
One of the proposed benefits of 5G is that it shields phone identifiers such as the “international mobile subscriber identity” of your device, to help prevent targetted or tracking.
But the downgrade attacks that have come to the light might bump a target device down to a previous generation (4G) or put it into the limited-service mode to force and make it send its IMSI number unencrypted.
Undeniably, the step to 5G technology is an absolute big one on a plethora of fronts.
Still, it won’t adequately provide a security upgrade not until a pure 5G network comes around with no legacy technology, perhaps, in another 10 years’ time – who knows?.
Will 5G Network be Used for Spying?
The 5G network is indeed the next big thing given all that its capable of doing.
Unfortunately, most countries are seemingly reluctant to allow the 5G infrastructure to be supplied to their countries.
The main reason is merely because of 5G security concerns.
There are no shreds of evidence yet to suggest that 5G alone can be used for industrial cyber espionage.
However, as things stand, everything is pointing out to the fact that 5G technology is most likely to become a national security interest.
For instance, the United States and the UK are considering whether to allow the company behind 5G network; Huawei to supply it 5G infrastructures to those countries.
But what is the main concern?
The main reason why most of them are not open to the 5G network is because of the concern that a foreign agency, for example, might tap in some way into the information flow and use the data in various ways aimed to attack the users.
The network is expected to reach a broader population, whereby it requires a lot of your personal, commercial as well as industrial data.
Therefore, it’s a no brainer that with such sensitive information on the air, security has to be a concern.
The most likely solution to such a concern is perhaps the possibility of having several vendors such as Nokia and Ericsson coming into the picture and not only Huawei.
Therefore, in a nutshell, with a bigger target, 5G networks look to be a huge vulnerability given the introduction of the Internet of Things.
The world will be much open to the cyber-attacks with a lot of data that can kill folks in case they go wrong.
What is the Potential for 5G Tech Abuse?
One thing is for sure; the 5G network is capable of doing unlimited things in a positive way to improve your daily services.
A lot of devices will benefit from the fifth-generation network and seamlessly increase the manner you’ll enjoy life.
You’re only required to provide a lot of information to such devices to make them function according to your commands.
Unfortunately, there’s the dark side of it, too. What if the manufacturer or even an attacker abuses such information and invade your privacy?
Given the amount of data that will be provided into the 5G network, it is a grieve concern when such information gets into the wrong hands.
Can you imagine what an attacker can do when they know everything about you, even more than you know yourself?
For instance, you might be enjoying your 5G faster streaming speed to watch your favorite video content without knowing that you might be watched as well.
It’s an abuse that Dan Garraway, a co-founder of Wirewax (an interactive video technology company), thinks can be a result of connecting to the 5G network.
Another thing is that your Smart TV could be watching you. The worst part of it is that you’re not aware.
Connecting to 5G net could expose most homes to attackers as the Smart TVs could be an ideal source of information without you even knowing it.
Moreover, the scenario that you may not know that you are under attack when connected to the 5G network makes it even worse.
Most attacks usually happen in the background, and one of the best ways that you can tell something is not right is when your system tends to slow down.
The good thing is, the 5G network will be stable and faster to the extent that you would realize any changes in your devices when they are under attack.
Initially, with the previous generation of networks, it was a little bit more challenging to locate ‘precisely’ your whereabouts in the city.
Now with the 5G technology, your whereabouts will be more precise thanks to the shorter range of initial wireless signals that will trigger more cell towers closer to the location you are in.
Unfortunately, that would be a disadvantage when it’s used by someone looking to cause harm.
Globally, consumers, too, have their concerns on how provider companies may be using their data.
A lot of data (without a doubt) will be provided and will be in the hands of companies such as Huawei, the leading firm behind the 5G network.
It’s no wonder countries like the US have had issues with the Chinese provider over the concerns on how they may handle the comprehensive information.
Nevertheless, there are potential abuses that may be a result of switching the gear to the 5G network.
But then some folks may argue that the advantages that 5G brings are way too many to worry about the ‘risks.’ But why risk after all?
5G’s Security and Privacy Future
The fifth-generation (5G) network is an evolutionary network of the current protocols of the 4G LTE network.
Since 2019 when the network was deployed and became a reality (South Korea was the first country to adopt 5G at a large scale), it has not been fully enrolled across the world.
Besides, the 5G mobile operators will not be having full security and privacy control over the components of the system, contrary to the case in the previous generations who could access and control the components.
The 5G network shall boost the 4G internet functionality speed with rates of up to 300 megabits/second.
Also, it shall have low latency, thereby creating robust data – processing opportunities for organizations, which can be crucial in detecting and responding appropriately to the security concerns imminently.
Moreover, it will open up to another generation that is characterized by real-time, more reliable automated services, and highways.
It is considered pivotal in the growth of internet innovation, technologies, and through its connection, jobs opportunity will be created, and enhancement of research works in the universities.
Several actors like Communication Service Providers (CSPs), Network Service Providers, and Virtual Mobile Network Operators (VMNOs) will play a significant role in the 5G security by enhancing its designing, implementation, and maintenance.
Although, each actor has prioritized security and privacy differently; thus, harmonizing the un-matching policies will bring about an uphill task to the new network.
That calls up for stringent measures to solve the security and privacy debacle brought about.
Understandably, the 5G networks will bring in a new layer of internet connectivity with vast benefits. Its antennas and base stations are small hence can be put either outdoors or indoors.
Irrespective of the goodies that will be attached to it, there is a capability of a user’s critical information being exposed to imposters.
For instance, access point selection algorithms in the 5G networks and connection of a mobile user to its antennas when communicating show the exact location point of the user, thereby exposing the user to cyber-attacks and bullying.
Also, the identity of the mobile subscriber can be revealed through the seizure of the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) of the subscriber’s phone.
Through that, the subscriber’s activities like the outgoing call logs made and the messages sent could be monitored, thus challenging one’s privacy and security.
Another privacy concern is about the user’s data collection and storage by the 5G networks.
These networks have got no material boundaries as they use storage based in the clouds; hence their operators cannot be able to have control over these sets of data stored in the cloud.
Consequently, it poses a privacy threat to the user if the cloud storage of the data is hosted in a different country.
What are the remedies?
- Mutual trust and agreement among the stakeholders involved.
- Enhance privacy upholding designs and protocols during the network’s architectural work.
- Storing sensitive and less sensitive data locally and in the cloud respectively.
- Message encryption before submitting it to the service provider.
- Adopting a Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity that is changed by the network regularly to guard the identity of the user.
It’s something that we’ve all been waiting for; the fifth-generation network. The 5G network will revolutionize the mobile network to a greater degree than you can imagine.
For instance, the manner of connections will be unimaginable as you’ll connect in a flash.
If you have been suffering from lags when streaming your favorite movie or TV shows, then it could be about time to say goodbye to the delays.
It will take the gaming industry to the next level. Moreover, smart devices will be introduced in a plethora of sectors, including the agriculture sector, the health sectors, and many others; and hence increasing efficiency and productivity.
Unfortunately, as good as 5G network looks, it will also come with its flaws, especially on user privacy.
But with time, new 5G security tools, safeguards, and updates will likely emerge to protect consumers, at least under specific circumstances.
Nevertheless, in any environment, it’s significant to keep your guard a notch up.
Images via Pixabay.