Addressing Privacy and Security Concerns in 5G Network

Is the coast clear for the landing of 5G?

Security concerns remain unsolved as finishing touches are being put in place for the 5G roll-out. The challenges here lie not only in identifying all the possible security challenges, but in sharing the responsibilities of addressing the security challenges among the key players.

Given the phenomenal potentials that accompany 5G from smart cities to smart homes and more , these security issues come with immediate and far-reaching consequences.

The fifth generation mobile network technology is expected to provide speeds as much as four times that of 4G networks. This opens the door to several technological improvements and applications, including medical robotics, automotive applications such as self-driving cars, artificial intelligence applications, etc.

This widespread application of 5G capabilities is where security concerns begin to emerge. The more technologies make use of this network, the more they become vulnerable to attacks. Where medical industries only relied on connectivity for front desk databases and billing, they may now depend on 5G for a lot more than that — surgical robots, for example. Where automobiles only relied on connectivity for GPS, tracking, and phone-related tasks, they may now depend on 5G for self-driving capabilities and more.

These new developments mean new lapses in security, as these industries become more vulnerable to security attacks.

According to reports, the U.S. (United States of America) government is considering the herculean task of developing and deploying its own 5G infrastructures for its public. This would see it shouldering most of the responsibilities for 5G security.

However any feasible solution to security issues would require joint efforts, not just the efforts of the government alone.Specifically this includes the government, hardware companies, service providers, and end users.

But such delegation of security responsibilities needs to balance, without any infringements on the privacy of end users.

Such a balance is much harder than it seems, as 5G leaves several holes open to attack. Cyber security is already a concern as it is; with the emergence of 5G, the concern increases.

The nature of 5G security challenges

2G and 3G have had their fair share of security challenges, and experts say 5G comes with these security lapses intrinsically plugged. Drew Morin, director of federal cyber security technology and
engineering programs at T-Mobile US, lauds the superior encryption capabilities of the 5G network.

What we’ve done in 5G is, we’ve worked in the specifications to ensure that the over-the-air part is all
encrypted, as well as the handshake between the device and the tower [and into] the core of the network, that’s also encrypted all the way through.

But on the other hand, 5G infrastructures come with an unprecedented multitude of entry points that can be used to breach security. With 5G, we’re not just talking about basic smartphone services like calling, SMS, and web surfing; we’re talking about next-gen apps, algorithms and data warehouses connected to smart homes, autonomous vehicles, public buildings, hospitals, and other technological and non-technological infrastructures.

The fifth-generation networks will improve and facilitate the Internet of Things (IoT). This means an uncounted number — not just a handful, as in 3G and 4G of user interfaces that will overlap within the network. That, in turn, gives rise to the need for a relatively vast array of security protocols to cater to the various layers of technologies, from smart home appliances to wearables and business equipment such as biometric devices.

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With 5G, the smallest margin of error can give way to colossal hack attacks. Several studies have proved theories of possible 5G security challenges. One such study, which analyzed 5G authentication, was carried out by a team of researchers from the ETH Zurich, the University of Lorraine/INRIA, and the University of Dundee. It showed the degree of ease with which criminals can intercept 5G transmissions and steal data.
“Critical security gaps are present,” the group noted in their press release. The group claims that the fundamental problems are that “security goals are under specified”, and that there’s a “lack of precision” in the 3GPP security standards.

How each key player can work equitably to address these security risks

With lessons learned from the roll-out of previous generations of connection networks, stakeholders need to keenly consider the fact that retroactive responses to critical security challenges will most
likely not be as effective as a proactive approach adopted prior to the introduction of the technology.

However, it’s impossible for tech companies and the government to trace out and address every single security issue prior to the roll-out of the 5G technology. However, some can be tackled ahead of a wide scale launch.

The following are ways that experts believe the major players can approach these challenges:

The Government:

Besides the gargantuan task proposed by the U.S government of undertaking the development and deployment of 5G technologies for public use, other more feasible measures
can be used by governments around the world to curb these security risks. However, what experts want to see is a uniform approach to security.

According to Drew Morin, experts want “consistency in any kind of guidance or regulation or legislation” on security and privacy, rather than several versions of security regulations deployed across various jurisdictions.

Europe has instituted changes to its General Data Protection Regulation to safeguard consumer privacy, while California is on the verge of enacting its own state regulations.

IoT device manufacturers:

IoT devices need to come with much stronger authentication protocols and tougher security for Wi-Fi connections. Companies also need to desist from any policies that might increase the vulnerability of IoT devices. There’s a need for hardware companies to build trust with customers.

Measures can be taken by nations to ensure trust for example, Australia banned Chinese tech giant Huawei from participating in the country’s 5G race, including the building of 5G infrastructures, due to concerns over company-instigated data breaches and foreign governmental influence.

Network Providers:

Firewalls, intrusion detection, and prevention tools, as well as tools for identifying and fixing malware attacks, are all effective measures service providers can use to provide another critical layer of protection for 5G.

Final words

We can expect that any new technological innovation as impact full as 5G will come with a number of challenges. Here, there are a few, one of the most concerning being security concerns. The gist of it all is that 5G opens the door to a number of possibilities for a number of industries. Its applications are vast, ranging from medical applications to autonomous cars, smart homes to smart cities, and beyond. This means more industries becoming open to security attack.

Solving these securities should be a priority. Doing so before a full, wide-scale launch would be ideal a more proactive approach than previous mobile network technologies. Also, solutions across different jurisdiction should be uniform, as opposed to unique to particular regions. These approaches, along with joint efforts from all concerned players, should reduce security concerns to more manageable levels.

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