5G Could Be A Cyber Security Revolution

2020 has been a year like no other and 2021 will continue the revolution. The impact of Coronavirus has accelerated the process of digital transformation and the rapid transition to remote work may well prove permanent. At the same time, a range  new threats for security professionals to grapple with are emerging as they work out how to protect a rapidly changing business environment. 

Today, the coming of widespread 5G technology promises more than just faster everything, enhanced capacity and potentially greater reliability. 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 deployment of 5G offers new possibilities for the business world as it enhances security measures in the battle with cyber-criminals. 

Cyber security is an essential part of business today and it is important that organisations invest heavily in technology to protect themselves and their clients from a growing legion of sophisticated cyber-criminals. This is especially problematic as the world continues to battle a global pandemic that has forced organisations to disperse their employee populations to remote working environments, leaving themselves even more vulnerable to attack. Not surprisingly, cyber-attacks have increased exponentially. 

Digital transformation is a key driver and enabler of the cyber security evolution; and for businesses to stay competitive and scale up to their full potential, they must invest heavily in 5G technologies to create new opportunities for advances in cyber security 

It is essential that organisations make a substantial investment in new technologies and IT practices for a robust cyber security framework. In addition, they need to have cyber security solutions that can scale appropriately as they continue to grow and adapt to the changing work environment. 

Organisations implementing new security measures using 5G architecture are in the best position to protect themselves from being targeted. 

The use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT), all enabled by the strong backbone network provided by 5G, will help IT teams prevent new cyber security threats to operate entire business networks more securely. 5G will also leverage network virtualisation (NV), which consolidates hardware and software network resources into a single virtual network, to help manage problems remotely and optimise network services. 
Organisations will need to take advantage of NV to make their networks nimbler and more responsive, and NV will give them the ability to provide real-time services to their clients. 

The high speed offered by 5G will also enable implementation of cyber technologies such as deep packet inspection (DPI), a type of data processing that examines in detail all data being sent over a computer network. 

For example, telecom service providers could use DPI to check and handle malicious traffic inserted by cyber-criminals who connect via OTT (over-the-top) channels, providing content over the Internet, to spread malware.  While 5G is transformative with its high speeds and connection capabilities, there are different ways in which 5G can also open doors to new vulnerabilities. 5G will lead to the explosion in IoT and IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) where cyber security will be of paramount importance.

Another example is with the new medical technologies powered by 5G, doctors could put a patch with a cardiac sensor on a patient’s chest, from which they will be able to live stream the ECG (electrocardiogram) data to a cloud server for analysis and interpretation. This is critical data that, if compromised by hackers, can be manipulated, which could lead to an incorrect analysis, diagnosis, and prescribed medication. 

5G technology is two pronged in that it can serve to protect organisations from cyber-criminals looking to exploit network vulnerabilities, but at the same time, it can also create vulnerabilities for businesses as well. With this extremely complicated problem in mind, organisations must redefine their cyber strategy planning to ensure that they can use 5G for the greatest good and continually upgrade the nature of their networks to protect themselves from future attacks. 

Consequently, cyber protection must be dynamic rather than reliant on a uniform lowest common denominator solution. The challenges of securing organisations from cyber-attacks have risen dramatically amid the pandemic as ‘working from anywhere’ has been accepted as part of the ‘new normal’ in our modern corporate culture. 

Unfortunately, with such a large population of the workforce spending time online from home and elsewhere using multiple devices that are susceptible to attacks, cyber-criminals are easily finding ways to out-manoeuvre their victims. Through social engineering scams such as phishing email attacks, hackers are even using devices such as a mobile phone as a weapon against its owner. That is why it is imperative that organisations proactively educate their employees against cyber-attacks. 

At the same time, organisations must also educate their customers and make them aware of social engineering schemes that can manipulate them into divulging confidential data using their own devices. 

As with any complex network, 5G networks tend to have vulnerabilities. As they require regular updates, operators frequently grant network access to third parties. Original network components, as well as software updates, are the product of complex, international supply chains that are difficult to trace, largely because the apparent national origin of a product is not a reliable guide to where its components were designed or manufactured.  

While the rapid shift to a remote workforce has created new opportunities for cyber criminals, organisations having foresight are proactively shoring up their investments in 5G technology solutions to combat cyber crime and prove that they can operate successfully in a virtual capacity. 

For organisations trying to stay one step ahead of cyber-attacks on their networks, the need to detect and prevent cyber crime before it has happened is no longer optional but mandatory.   

RUSI:    Ericsson:      Broadband4Europe:       Tripwire:         Infosecurity Magazine:     CSO Online:     Image: Unsplash

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