Digital transformations and innovations are the reason for the long strides in technology today. From handing out mails in an envelope to sending it over a sever within a brief second is the length of this stride.
Technology is now being pushed further to cater to the growing need for speed. We are a generation who wants the fastest cars, fastest internet, fastest everything. We are always on the lookout for the next-big-thing thing to happen and flood the opportunities, there are to avail.
5G is today’s next-big-thing, and with the end of 2019, it is already a reality, with a more prominent, global presence, in 2020.
It isn’t a global transformation for no reason—5G is said to be about 100 times faster than 4G (theoretically), isn’t that a number worth being on the lookout for?
The 5G network brings with it the promises of low latency, higher, more uniform data rates of 10 Gbps, better utilization of the spectrum, and much more. This means a lesser delay between any transmission of data and better speed. 5G does only enable faster network but allows humans as well as devices to communicate on a larger scale. It is bound to transform the Internet of Things (IoT) radically.
5G is a leap in the series of 1G through 4G—with the network providers also promising to all kinds of possibilities. The hyper is real. As a result, the possibilities of under-delivering are also very real, but the fact that it is indeed a digital transformation stands true.
Yet, the single most aspect of 5G, which should gain more focus over its perks, is safety. 5G is a new landscape altogether. 5G is a software network, which a big difference from the latest 4G. With this, the tools to make it happen and to make it secure have to upgrade and change drastically.
It is much like your phone, requiring regular updates—and we all have seen the kind of risks that phones have unleashed.
The 5G network can now use the much-unexplored mmWave, as opposed to the previous network’s reach—this means the communication towers which facilitate the transmission of the current waves cannot support them. The 5G mmWave cannot travel as much as the present, lower frequency waves. This means drastically a higher number of these cellular communication towers have to be installed. According to a CNBC interaction, Ericsson had to place a total of 350,000 towers in US alone for 5G to be a reality.
These are not just additional efforts to make 5G happen—these are big changes to the network and how applications and devices have been interacting with these networks. These changes are majorly being met with the notions of who delivers the best of networks, in the fastest way with an innovation-first approach. Earlier, this was seen with the Internet of Things alone, where the providers were keen on facilitating the fanciest of services and left out security. Several instances later—we see a more security-first approach (Read more about IoT security).
This ended up being an additional build/layer of security post the advent of IoT. With 5G, this cannot happen—there is so much more at stake.
The 5G providers, telecom companies are essentially everywhere. Communication, transmission of financial data, sensitive data, hosting important data, and so much more fall under their array of responsibilities. Therefore, a cyber attack on a telecom company is of much higher magnitude. With the changing landscape of network, in terms of the physical devices, connections, and the way it is carried out—the landscape of risk increases as well.
Here are the 9 risks which 5G brings to the Internet of Things:
1. Increased area for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) for the devices in IoT:
5G network drastically increases the available bandwidth. Thus, this enables devices with more bandwidth. This, in turn, increases the area of attack for bots leading to a network more vulnerable to DDoS attacks. Most IoT devices do not have a track of the traffic that comes to them—this means that attacks can happen anonymously with no one batting an eye.
The increase in bandwidth also means that the devices can now be placed in a more remote area. From such places, it is difficult to manage the devices. The devices are left unattended and vulnerable, leaving botnets to take full advantage of this situation.
2. More attack surface areas for hackers to thrive:
The adoption of 5G network means that providers have to be thoroughly capable of managing the different environments that it brings. With the all-software infrastructure of 5G, providers have to ensure patches and updates are stringently looked after. It brings in complications of delay in updates, and the aspect of a patch management policy.
As telecom companies are made up of a wide range of vendors for various parts like switches, access points, and network interfaces—the complication multiplies. When this is merged with the already vulnerable IoT devices, security becomes a prime concern.
3. The problem of proximity Service (PeS) intrusions:
Key functionality that 5G enables is Proximity Service, with the communication between devices becomes much more streamlined. This means that communication between emergency devices, vehicle to vehicle, IoT devices can happen at a much faster rate. The communication nodes are now at a more vulnerable place, taking on much more traffic. The usual authentication, authorization, encryption should now happen at a much more regulated rate. The use cases of such functionalities are very sensitive operations that have to be carried out with ramped up security.
4. Risk of the economy:
As discussed earlier, the idea of an attack on 5G networks cannot be taken lightly. If a lot of money, data, and PII is lost when a bank is hacked, then imagine the repercussions if the source which is transmitting your data itself is hacked?
Businesses transmitting sensitive information, financial data, government data are all very crucial. If this data is at the hands of bad actors, it is not just a matter of concern for companies. The economy of the country can be at stake.
5. The SS7 protocol risk
The SS7 protocol is used for the exchange of data between network devices. 5G is also going to be using the same protocol. This has been considered unsafe for a long time, as attacks on it can even go past the very reliable two-factor authentication as well. Once the hackers get hold of this network, he/she could read your messages, location, and even listen to your phone call. When 5G is utilized between a large number of connected devices with IoT, it leaves a lot of devices vulnerable.
6. More data in cloud now:
With 5G increasing the scope of IoT devices, a lot of data will be on cloud. This brings back the old questions on the security of cloud itself. With cloud, the questions like how the storage is carried out and where is it carried out is crucial. It brings complications of API insecurity, DDoS attacks, and failure to comply with regulations—unless managed wisely.
7. Increasing demand in networks, increased use of IPv6:
The use of IPv4 reduced due to the lack of available addresses. Yet, many businesses still use IPv4 due to the protection it provides being invisible to the internet. But, with the advent of 5G, the need for more IP addresses will arise, and there is a serious concern of people choosing public IPv6, leaving them very open to the outside world.
8. Edge computing challenges:
Edge computing facilitates for the data to be read the device itself. This raises the issues of security between the data center and the edge, which is carrying out the operation. Security issues also arise due to lack of personnel available at these remote points, which enable IoT. Edge computing requires policies like Zero trust policy, which can maintain network compartmentalization ensuring safety. Yet, zero-trust itself is just now picking up.
9. The lack of security in the IoT devices themselves:
The IoT devices built out of innovation lack security. Many of the devices in this network do not even have the means for encryption and updates. IoT networks are dealing with complications like hardcoded passwords, lack of support for legacy assets, lack of unified frameworks, and regulations. Unless these devices have been safeguarded, the advent of 5G will proliferate the threat landscape along with the devices.
The risks associated with 5G and IoT can outweigh the advantages they provide if they aren’t looked into the proper way.
Security must be built into the structural aspect of 5G and then deployed rather than patching up security afterward. Security measures like biometric authentication on IoT devices are key to securing them.
IoT, in combination with 5G, is going to yield a lot of data. This data can be used against the providers. Or the providers can leverage this data and have a machine learning system in place. This cognitive technology can train itself and familiarize with the traffic, recognize unfamiliarities, and learn how to cope with them as well.
In a race of innovation between businesses, it is crucial to ensure security isn’t left behind. After all, what’s digital transformation, if it ends up making people anxious instead of excited?