As a society, we LOVE new technology.
There’s a reason why every Apple live stream or Google announcement is poured over by the press. We can’t wait to see what new innovations in technology are going to improve our lives (or at least entertain us for a while.)
One of the biggest revolutions in online technology is on the horizon, and it looks to be as significant as the advent of 4G. Logically, it’s 5G!
The fifth generation of cellular networks is on the verge of becoming mainstream. 5G compatibility is making its way into more and more phones and is rapidly becoming available in larger population centers. 5G is expected to offer speeds up to 100x faster than 4G. The implications of this far exceed just being able to watch higher-quality YouTube videos on your phone.
At these speeds, the internet of things (IoT) will be able to take a massive step forward. Imagine every car on the road being able to talk with each other instantaneously, revolutionizing self-driving vehicles. Imagine the advancements in AI when every device in your office can immediately communicate with each other. And those are just the applications that we’ve thought of currently, who knows what the future will bring!
Now, there are some major issues to work out with 5G that are holding the technology back a bit. 5G signals currently have trouble passing through solid objects, such as walls and ceilings. This means that, even if you are in a 5G area, you might still be limited to 4G speeds depending on where you are standing. But the biggest issue when it comes to 5G is, in our option, security.
The Security Dangers of 5G Technology
We recently published a blog focusing on the potential dangers of 5G technology, but here is a brief rundown.
It all boils down to holes in security. As with any new technology, there are exploits that are continually being discovered by technology companies, security providers, and malicious actors alike. Leaks in unencrypted data can currently allow people access to see your device’s make, model, and operating system on 5G networks. There are other exploits that enable actors to force your 5G device to connect to a 4G network, opening it up to all of the currently-available security holes that are associated with 4G.
Even worse (or better, depending on your perspective), 5G relies more on software than it does on hardware for operation. This allows new features to be quickly added, but also leaves it much more open to security holes on the software level.
On the plus side, the development of 5G has been focused on security from the very start. Many of the security issues with 3G and 4G devices have been fixed, and the security issues with 5G will be patched over time as the technology will become more secure. However, that’s small comfort to early adopters. If you currently are using a 5G device, you need to be aware that the technology is still in its relative infancy, and as such, will be subject to much scrutiny by malicious actors looking to break into your device. Speaking of malicious actors…
What About the Espionage Risks of 5G?
As with so many cybersecurity threats today, the source of many concerns, including about 5G, comes from China.
China is one of the leaders in 5G technology and are playing a role in its adoption around the world. Specifically, the Chinese telecommunications and technology company Huawei has been focused on developing 5G networks. Though Huawei is technically a privately-owned company, it is known for its strong ties to the Chinese government. And regardless of that pre-existing relationship, under Chinese law, all private companies must comply with any requests made by China’s intelligence services.
The United States has been watching Huawei’s growing 5G market power with concern, as China isn’t exactly known for their respect for digital privacy. There are significant worries that by allowing Huawei to have a major hand in building 5G networks in America, there might be backdoors and other intentional security flaws that could allow foreign governments access to U.S. data. The Chinese government could even “legally” compel Huawei into using the 5G infrastructure to spy on individuals and businesses that are using their services.
It’s important to remember that the Chinese version of the internet is not the same one that we enjoy. Access to sites is severely limited, with a massive amount of censorship and legal monitoring of users’ behavior online. The idea that we would be allowing an entity that, essentially, has its own separate version of the internet into our markets concerns us, to say the least.
Thankfully, U.S. companies have started to pick up the 5G slack. Verizon, for example, held a 5G launch event in New York back in September. Regardless of who supplies it, 5G technology is coming. The advantages of adoption are simply too great to ignore and, so long as we are paying attention to the security side of things, well worth the risk.
That’s why it’s important to keep on top of cybersecurity news as it happens. If you want to be in the know, we invite you to check out the ComSec blog. We also offer cyber TSCM services that could help protect your privacy on 4G networks. And you can bet that, as 5G becomes more and more popular, that we will be watching closely to make sure that your security is protected there too! To learn more about how we can keep your data private and secure, please feel free to contact us today!
About the Author:
J.D. LeaSure, CCISM, is the President / CEO of ComSec LLC, a global provider of world class counterespionage and TSCM / Cyber TSCM™ services. www.ComSecLLc.com