The 5G network is here, almost. The latest network technology is faster, it promises data transfer rates of between 100Mbps and 10 Gbps. Such speeds will significantly improve the reliability of cellular broadbands and boost the adoption and reception of IoT devices.

However, the new applications and usage 5G brings could result in new security weaknesses and new avenues for attacks. The very things that make 5G a great improvement, which is new architecture and potential for new uses, also make it vulnerable.

New network architecture and 5G security

New network technologies such as Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) Software-defines Networking (SDN) were created in anticipation of the 5G network. But, they come with significant security concerns.

First, they are new, meaning their security vulnerabilities have not been tested. Additionally, these technologies are open and programmable, features that hackers could use to come up with new methods of attacks.

SDN can be used to create management interfaces. An attack on the SDN controller, for example, could disable the whole management system.

New uses and 5G security

5G will have numerous applications. Obvious beneficiaries of this network will be autonomous vehicles. Medical IoT devices, drone technology, and Smart homes.

These new applications create new and more vulnerable avenues for attacks. Already there are horror stories of cyberattacks on vehicles. Imagine what hackers would achieve on autonomous cars, which, thanks to 5G, will soon become the norm.

In the field of medicine, 5G will improve the transfer of patient files, remote patient monitoring, remote surgeries, and much more. All these applications will need more robust network securities because vulnerabilities can be fatal. Potential attacks include stealing of medical records and remote tampering of surgeries and other medical processes supported by IoT devices.

5G can be secured

All this does not mean the 5G network is not secure. But unlike 4G and older network protocols, there is a need for multi-pronged security approach. This research from the Journal of ICT Standardization recommends security approaches such as EAP-based (Extensible Authentication Protocol based) secondary authentication, Authentication and Key Agreement (AKA) among others.

Final thoughts

5G is a high-speed, low latency network that will increase the number of internet devices, boost virtualisation and the use of the cloud. These benefits increase the number and types of potential cyber-attacks. Therefore, the tech industry has to focus not only on delivery but also the security of the 5G network.