Why 5G Security Matters More Than You Think

5g digital blue graphic

The race to procure 5G technology is not necessarily new. In fact, countries have been vying for the “first to 5G” title since 2018However, as the technology expands and rollout begins, there have been concerns bubbling up.  

For businesses, it’s about how to best implement this technology for their products; for consumers, it’s about rushing to get the technology and have it at their fingertips; but for security experts, the hype of 5G is worrisome because the attention is on the procurement and implementation rather than prioritization of its security. The risks of 5G aren’t being discussed nearly as much as they should be. It is imperative that corporations and consumers understand that new technologies require security before implementation to not be a likely target for cyber-criminals. 

What is 5G?  

Many simplify 5G, explaining it as simply, a faster version of 4G. While that’s not entirely untrue, the reality of 5G is much more complex. The “G” in 5G refers to “generation,” meaning that this is the fifth generation of communications technology. Each “generation” sees new advancements and faster speeds within the technology – for example, the first generation of mobile communications offered 2.4 kbps, while the second generation sped up to 64 kbps and based on GSM technology. The most recent 4G technology was based on LTE and offered 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps. 5G can reach up to 10GB/s (100 times faster than 4G) while maintaining an ultra-low latency rate of 1ms, about a tenth of 4G’s transmission delays.  

While it may be enticing to hear that your streaming service wont experience any lags, 5G also offers limitless potential in enhancing smart technology like smart homes, smart factories, and autonomous vehicle technologies. This will transform many aspects of both individual and societal lifestyles as well as the way enterprises operate. However, its transformative and innovative nature also makes it much more risky, bringing in vulnerabilities hitherto unseen.  

What are the security implications of 5G?  

Cybersecurity itself isn’t a new concept when it comes to keeping your network safe. However, 5G is a whole new ballgame in which the structure of the network itself is different from what we’ve seen before. Relying on the security architecture of 4G is just not going to cut it. Take a look at how we may be going into un-chartered territory.  

The unknown. A recent Deloitte poll showed that 76.4% of organizations were already using 5G and 80.7% planned on implementing it within the next 12 months. With quick adoption into a technology still being developed and secured, there’s a lot of unknown risk that companies are taking. With the massive amounts of devices that are waiting to connect to 5G networks, there will likely be backdoors that hackers will be able to utilize to hack into networks, and as they will be relatively new and unknown, companies may be ill-prepared to deal with the consequences.  

Network slicing. Unlike existing networks, 5G networks work on a network slicing architecture, meaning that multiple virtual networks sit on a shared network, allowing for flexibility and efficiency in managing traffic and connection density. While this can be beneficial in that it provides some isolation, it’s not completely foolproof as the concept of network slicing means that it is still sharing at least some infrastructure and overlap with the larger network. Adequate security policies for this type of infrastructure are necessary, otherwise, malicious actors could use network slicing to their advantage, using shared network to access all slices.  

More (dangerous) access points. One of the most highlighted use cases for the 5G network is for expansion of the Internet of Things, or IoT. With more and more devices becoming connected, the possibilities are endless, ranging from environmental monitoring, medical technologies, to industrial smart factories. More connections that have larger social implications, however, means that the risks are that much greater. For example, consider medical devices or even remote surgical treatments utilizing 5G connections. If a hacker were to use a vulnerable access point to take control of the connection, this could have tragic results.  

While there are still security implications and concerns, this technology isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And it’s clear that the technology does have benefits – in fact, it’s estimated that the benefits of 5G will push $12 trillion USD into the global economy by 2035. 

How we can facilitate safer 5G 

Universal standards and cooperationIn this new generation of technology, there will be an unprecedented number of devices connecting to 5G networks. As such, it’s important that there be universal standards and protocols to serve as a basis for implementing security. With both public and private networks, this kind of standardization is key to ensuring security. For example, organizations like the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) also contribute to global, cross-industry cooperation by those involved in the automotive sector to ensure that regulations are standardized and that networks are kept safe. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) promote international standards that promote 5G standards and collaborate to ensure continued development as the technology progresses.  

AI and machine learning. With the loads of data being communicated over the 5G network, there’s an exponential amount of data to have to comb through. With AI and machine learning technology, the systems can learn to detect anomalies before threats compromise critical systems. For example, for Penta Security’s WAPPLES, we utilize an AI-based intrusion detection engine, COCEP, which analyzes traffic by automatically updating its signature list using machine learning.  

The future of 5G security depends on the prep 

5G will be and already is a game changer. With any new technology, security should be a priority. We have always said this with any innovative technology, but as the use cases for 5G are not contained to hardware, but within the cloud and in IoT, affecting everyday lives, there is no time like the present to ensure that security protocols and solutions are in place before adoption.  

Faster speeds and improved connectivity will create opportunities and possibilities we’ve never seen before, but to be able to do that safely, we need to ensure that we’re moving in the direction of secured networks, and not risky access points.  

For more information about Penta Security and its security solutions customized to enterprise network needs, visit www.pentasecurity.com.  


Check out Penta Security’s product lines: 

Web Application Firewall: WAPPLES 

Database Encryption: D’Amo 

Identity and Access Management: ISign+  

Car, Energy, Factory, City Solutions: Penta IoT Security