Consumers and businesses are set to benefit enormously from the exponential network improvements promised by 5G.
More than just an incremental upgrade, 5G will create opportunities for the most exciting science fiction inventions to become science facts. It will lead to a level of connectedness and interconnectedness that hasn’t been seen before as data is shared between devices and applications at speeds even faster than the human brain.
However, consumers and businesses won’t be the only parties benefiting from these improvements. Cybercriminals will be able to take advantage of 5G to mount even more sophisticated attacks, gain better economies of scale, and target more attack vectors. Therefore, it’s essential for any person or business considering moving to 5G be aware of security upfront, according to Palo Alto Networks.
With 5G applications, a cyberattack can go beyond locking up data or compromising business operations. For example, cybercriminals could cause car accidents as autonomous vehicles become ubiquitous, or loss of life by hacking surgical robots or connected lifesaving devices; and these are just two of literally millions of examples of society’s potential reliance on 5G-enabled devices and applications.
Security will absolutely be the key differentiator for 5G; without security baked in as part of the fabric, 5G applications will be risky. It’s also imperative to take stock of where security is at today because threats aren’t waiting for 5G.
Palo Alto Networks recommends a three-pronged approach to improve security in preparation for 5G:
1. Government: address systemic issues present in today’s mobile networks
There are currently security issues in mobile networks that create risks for all users. Therefore, the government needs to step up to do more to regulate telecommunications providers to ensure they’re doing everything they can to keep the network secure.
If there are challenges that remain unaddressed in today’s networks, they are only going to get worse when 5G arrives. To successfully deliver on the promise of 5G, security is absolutely fundamental and must underpin everything. Government-mandated security can help.
2. Telecommunication providers: provide value-added security services to customers
Currently, telcos provide data and carriage with no responsibility for security. This means they’re missing an obvious opportunity to differentiate their offering with a value-added security service.
When passengers go to the airport, they know every single bag will be inspected before it gets on the plane. The same should be true of network traffic. Telcos should be inspecting all of the traffic that passes through their networks and blocking traffic where appropriate. This should be a point of differentiation for telcos moving to offer 5G services.
3. Customers: demand secure offerings to enable innovative applications
When businesses are looking to provide next-generation services like autonomous cars or robotic surgery, they need to demand that their telco provides a secure network for these applications. Customer demand is a powerful way to compel providers to improve security.
Telcos can dedicate a piece of their network to specific customers who demand it, such as those who want to provide a service like autonomous cars, and ensure strong security across that slice of the network. With the potential for innovation that 5G offers, now is the time for telcos to prove that they can play a key role in providing the essential underpinning security required for these applications to work.
Security will be a fundamental enabler for 5G, with 90 per cent of mobile service providers identifying security as a key differentiator according to an Ericsson survey. (1)
Therefore, before embracing 5G, organisations should look to service providers to provide a resilient network with robust security mechanisms in place. They should take a preventative approach, and establish application-layer visibility and consistent security across all 5G applications and devices.
On a macro level, it’s critical for government and industry to work together to identify ways to build security into 5G networks from the outset, and continue to identify and drive progress towards best practices.
(1) “Exploring IoT Strategies,” Ericsson, April 2018, https://www.ericsson.com/en/