How secure is 5G really

Dear Readers,

This week’s blog is How secure is 5G? Developing technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to grow with 5G. However, hackers are already targeting their vulnerabilities as new windows for widespread cyber-attacks. Better cybersecurity is essential for our 5G future.

Ambimat Electronics with its experience of over 4 decades as an ODM of IoT products wishes to draw the attention of its customers and readers of blog posts towards this upcoming field.

The fifth generation of cellular networking will usher in new opportunities for tech advancement and innovation. Developing technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to grow with 5G. However, hackers are already targeting their vulnerabilities as new windows for widespread cyber-attacks. Better cybersecurity is essential for our 5G future.

The upcoming upgrade from 4G to 5G concerns pretty much anyone using a cellular connection. It’s wise to understand the cybersecurity 5G networking offers — and where it might be lacking…

What is 5G?

5G is a shorthand term that stands for the fifth generation of wireless cellular networks.

The first four generations each brought a new level of connectivity, with 3G and 4G being focused on improving mobile data. 5G seeks to continue this trend and expand use for mobile broadband access. 5G will work alongside 4G, eventually replacing it entirely.

How does 5G work?

To make the explanation simple, 5G transmits tons of data over shorter distances than 4G LTE. This helps speed and consistency of connection signals and the network itself — even when in motion. The network also is able to support more devices due to use of new signal spectrums. On top of all of this, energy-efficient tech allows less power to be used.

Why 5G?

While 4G LTE is powerful, we are quickly outgrowing this network as we push it to its limits. Current LTE networks are becoming overloaded in major cities, with regular slowdowns occurring at busier times of day. In addition to this, the rise of internet-connected “smart” gadgets will mean that we need a faster, higher-capacity system to support the billions of devices already in existence. With these and other perks, mobile data becomes cheaper, less power-hungry, and faster to connect way more devices than we can today.

What are some of the possibilities with 5G?

Obviously, better internet experiences are a direct result of this network. Beyond this, the fifth generation of mobile broadband will bring many benefits, most of which can be defined by the following:

  • Upgrading to a massive Internet of Things (IoT) will further tech-based growth for both industry and consumers. While many IoT devices are already in-use, they are limited by the current internet framework. 5G means battery-powered devices can stay active and connected with fewer tune-ups, permitting new completely wireless uses in remote, inconvenient, or hard-to-reach areas. Everything from smart thermostats and speakers, to sensors in industrial cargo and city power grids will have its own role to play.
  • Smart cities and Industry 4.0 each aim to give us more efficient, safer, productive work & lives. 5G-supported IoT is key to giving cities better infrastructure monitoring. It will also be used for smart automation in factories — dynamically shifting work processes

5G Cyber security Concerns

The 5G era is about to arrive, bringing faster speeds and lower latency to enable a host of new business applications. The next-generation cellular technology is designed to be more robust than its predecessors 3G and 4G, but 5G security is also much more complicated
to manage. 5G poses an elevated security threat partly because there are more vectors through which adversaries can attack. The technology is set to enable a massive number of connected devices, collectively known as the internet of things (IoT). Yet IoT devices are a target for cyber threat actors because they could be taken over to form what’s known as a botnet to perform distributed denial of service, or DDoS attacks to paralyze networks. The challenge is amplified by vertical 5G use-cases, such as connected cars and healthcare, which bring critical industry-specific security requirements. At the same time, 5G is based on virtualized networks, which themselves need to be governed by robust protocols. The real-life risks posed by 5G are already being demonstrated. Last year, researchers at the Black Hat security conference shared 5G vulnerabilities that allowed them to access user location

Later in 2019, researchers at the US universities of Iowa and Purdue demonstrated 11 5G vulnerabilities that could allow denial of service attacks and the hijacking of the public paging channel used to broadcast emergency alerts. 5G security creates an urgent need for the ecosystem – mobile operators, physical infrastructure providers, such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Huawei, vertical industries, such as automotive, and regulators – to work together. So how can this be done? Firstly, 5G security challenges need to be acknowledged and addressed. Some of the more significant threats are posed by high-risk industries using 5G technology for mission-critical applications. For example, 5G will enable smart cities and self-driving cars. Correctly, this will see 5G networks underpinning services such as emergency response and traffic control. But if the 5G networks enabling these applications are interfered with or shut off, the results could be catastrophic.

When it comes to 5g and cybersecurity, here are a few of the main concerns:

Decentralized security. Pre-5G networks had fewer hardware traffic points-of-contact, which made it easier to do security checks and upkeep. 5G’s dynamic software-based systems have far more traffic routing points. To be completely secure, all of these need to be monitored. Since this might prove difficult, any unsecured areas might compromise other parts of the network.

More bandwidth will strain current security monitoring. While current networks are limited in speed and capacity, this has actually helped providers monitor security in real-time. So, the benefits of an expanded 5G network might actually hurt cybersecurity. The added speed and volume will challenge security teams to create new methods for stopping threats.

Many IoT devices are manufactured with a lack of security. Not all manufacturers are prioritizing cybersecurity, as seen with many low-end smart devices. 5G means more utility and potential for IoT. As more devices are encouraged to connect, billions of devices with varied security means billions of possible breach points. Smart TVs, door locks, refrigerators, speakers, and even minor devices like a thermometer for a fish tank can be a network weakness. A lack of security standards for IoT devices means network breaches and hacking might run rampant.

Lack of encryption early in connection process reveals device info that can be used for device-specific IoT targeted attacks. This information helps hackers know exactly what devices are connected to the network. Details such as operating system and device type (smartphone, vehicle modem, etc.) can help hackers plan their attacks with more precision.

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities can take form in a wide variety of attacks. Some of the known cyber-threats include:

  • Botnet attacks control a network of connected devices to puppeteer a massive cyber-attack.
  • Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) overload a network or website to take it offline.
  • Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) attacks quietly intercept and change communications between two parties.
  • Location tracking and call interception can be done if someone knows even a small amount about broadcast paging protocols.

 

Consumer education on IoT cybersecurity is necessary.

The wide variation in security quality means product labeling standards will be needed. Because users have no way to easily know how safe IoT devices are, smart tech manufacturers might start to be held accountable with a label system. The FCC grades other forms of radio transmission, so the growing market of IoT devices may soon be included as well. In addition, users need to be taught the importance of securing all internet devices with software updates Efforts to improve security are happening alongside the initial rollout of 5G. But because we need real-world results to refine the protections, work will continue long after 5G is deployed.