5G is an extraordinary technology.
The fifth generation of mobile connectivity will transmit data in almost real-time, giving rise to exciting possibilities. Whether it’s healthcare, retail, fully autonomous cars or the Internet of Things, 5G will revolutionize the way humans interact and engage with technology.
MIT Technology Review compared the shift from 4G to 5G technology as analogous to the jump from the typewriter to the computer. The latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report predicted that 5G would cover up to 65% of the global population by the end of 2025 and would handle 45% of global mobile data traffic.
The reason why technology companies are so excited about the growth of 5G is of the possibilities it hopes. Ultra-fast data transmission could enable the creation of fully autonomous smart cities with each device communicating in real-time to each other, enabling highly efficient transportation systems. This is just one example of several ways by which 5G is predicted to reshape the future.
However, there is an element of anxiety as well. With the growing proliferation of 5G technology, the threat landscape will only expand—5G will enable homes, cars, refrigerators and any number of devices to be continuously connected to a high-speed data highway. The number of entry points for malicious actors will exponentially increase, leading to rise in threats for privacy and confidentiality.
A shift to an all-software network
The fundamental paradigm shift in 5G technology will be a migration to an all-software network from the current hardware setups. This will make 5G networks susceptible to any software vulnerabilities that may have crept in during the development stage. The possibility of exploiting critical flaws to install backdoors and steal confidential information remains high.
The other threat that this shift to purely software-based system entails is the importance of patching becoming exponentially more critical. As already mentioned, a world powered by 5G envisages a huge ecosystem of interconnected devices. Security updates will, hence, be delivered through the Internet, much like how current smartphone devices update themselves. But in the case of a 5G network, the number of systems will be huge, precipitating the urgent need to find a way to deliver critical security updates regularly.
Compliance with standards
There is no consensus yet on a set of wireless communication standards for 5G technology. While it can be argued that the technology is in its infancy, the process for establishing such standards must begin at the earliest. 5G is a powerful technology which offers exciting potential. But to ensure that there is some order within the chaos, the stakeholders who are exploring 5G must collaborate and establish some defined standards to help compliance in the long run.
The proliferation of 5G will exacerbate the current skill gap in the cybersecurity industry. This is a major threat in the enterprise security landscape as cybercriminals will not stop at exploiting the gaps posed by the new technology. For enterprises and even for nation-states, the issue needs fixing now and not later. Regular training and seminars must be organized to develop and upskill employees about the pros and cons of this new technology.