The deployment of 5G will ultimately transform how people live and work. Both countries and companies are in the race to deploy the fastest and largest 5G networks. Although 5G is still in its early days, it has massive potential in spurring the creation of transformative new technologies and the development of new industries.
5G networks are designed to deliver high data speeds, increased reliability, ultra-low latency, enormous network capacity, increased availability, and improved user experience. 5G will connect virtually anything and everything with high performance and high efficiency.
The biggest beneficiaries of the inherently high data speeds and more excellent network reliability will be enterprises and organizations. Businesses will improve efficiency immensely and provide users with faster access to information and better experiences.
Upon full implementation, 5G is expected to transform industries such as energy and power, healthcare, ICT, logistics, defense, and many more to drive initiatives/projects such as smart healthcare and telemedicine, intelligent factories and manufacturing, smart cities, and intelligent transportation. The early adopters of the technology will be seeking to fully exploit the potential of Big Data, Cloud, AI, and IoT in driving transformation. 5G will complement these technologies and slowly phase out conventional network services.
The widespread adoption of 5G in the coming years/decade will not be without challenges. 5G will serve as the backbone of increasingly digitized economies and societies. The innovation of software and services supported by 5G and suppliers’ role in the building and operation of 5G networks are identified as crucial security challenges.
5G will present unique cybersecurity challenges since it will be connecting billions of devices, objects, and systems. Think about connected devices in critical sectors and infrastructure such as banking, energy, health, and transport, as well as critical industrial control systems that carry sensitive information. The need to enhance security and build the resilience of 5G networks is pertinent.
- Attack surfaces will potentially expand, thereby increasing exposure and presenting unique challenges for IT security teams. 5G networks will be software-based, and cybercriminals will seek to exploit flaws such as low software development processes to insert backdoors.
- Compromised IoT-based DDoS attacks and those that target endpoint/device applications vulnerabilities will increase considerably with 5G networks’ deployment. Security experts foresee that DDoS protection will be the most significant security challenge with 5G security. The number of network-connected devices will grow considerably and increasing the risk of exploitative attacks. Organizations and businesses must invest in their capabilities to manage vulnerability to prevent large scale DDoS attacks and ensure network integrity.
- Network equipment and functions will become increasingly sensitive due to the nature of 5G network architecture and new functionalities.
- Availability and integrity of networks, especially for critical installations and IT applications, will become national security concerns. Governments will be increasingly wary of security challenges as 5G becomes a crucial backbone for different IT applications.
- The reliance on suppliers by mobile network operators will expose them to numerous risks and attack paths exploited by malicious actors. Countries have been wary of state-backed equipment suppliers and classified some companies as potential threat actors in the deployment of 5G networks. An individual supplier’s risk profile will need to be evaluated and considered when deploying 5G networks to mitigate exposure.
- Dependence on a single supplier increases the risk of exposure to interruptions. Suppliers may suffer commercial failure and associated consequences, thereby increasing vulnerabilities and exploitation by threat actors.
- Confidentiality and privacy threats will increase considerably when the availability and integrity of the network are compromised.
The conventional approaches to security will not be sufficient with 5G networks. These challenges create a new security paradigm that demands a reassessment of existing policy and security frameworks.
At the very least, organizations will have to employ scalable and automated security solutions to protect their networks and data. Security solutions must be backed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)–powered threat detection and response capabilities. Additionally, security challenges can be addressed by adopting shared security models by businesses and network operators.
Author: Alessandro Civati
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