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Is 5G safe in regards of cyber security? Like all new technologies, 5G also brings new security risks and concerns.

What actually is 5G?

5G is a mobile network standard that enables faster data transmissions than ever before. It also enables lower power consumption on devices and lower latency. Not only does this make watching online videos faster. It will make all kinds of mobile and IoT (internet of things) devices more common and effective. They can handle much more data and much faster while on the go.

The downside of 5G is its coverage. In mobile networks, the data is transferred with radio waves from a transmitter to the endpoint device. The lower the frequency of the radio wave is, the slower the data transfer. Lower frequencies can, however, travel further from the transmitter. With 5G the frequency is higher, but the waves can’t go very far. To counter this, the transmitters – also known as cell towers – have to be near the devices that use 5G. This means that the transmitters cover a smaller area than before. There needs to be more transmitters.

OK, so is 5G a security risk?

5G technology itself is not a risk, but it has vulnerabilities. Here are some of them.

1. Poisoning the data

5G networks will be largely be managed with AI and machine learning technology. These technologies work by analyzing huge amounts of data. A malicious actor could poison the system by manipulating the data. This way they could create blind spots and work undetected.

2. Attacking the software handling the network

If threat actors compromised the software that’s used to handle the network, they could control the whole network and manipulate it.

3. Targeting the cells and devices

Since 5G requires more transmitters, the attack surface is much larger. This means that there are much more potential targets for the attackers. It also means that the network owner has much more targets that need to be secured. If just one cell gets compromised, it could have serious consequences for the whole network. There will also be more devices that are connected to the network that need to be protected.

Read more from 5G security issues from this blog post >>

The 5G security issues are still being researched

Since 5G is still relatively new, there’s no telling of all the security risks it has. However, that applies to its benefits as well. It will definitely be interesting to see how the pros and cons of this technology will unfold. As Anthony Joe Melgarejo from F-Secure’s Tactical Defense unit says: “There is still active research on the 5G threats and mitigations, but that shouldn’t discourage us from taking advantage of the many benefits of 5G”. Watch his commentary on 5G security from the video below!

Luciano Mondragon

05.02.21 3 min. read


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