5G Technology: Not So Fast! Security Risks and Concerns

5G Technology, Security Risks and Concerns

Through the last decade, we have seen a humongous rise in technology and the use of mobile devices. At some point in the timeline, phones were just a medium of talking to people in real time without our actual presence. That time looks far gone, especially when you consider that phones these days can do pretty much everything. The ‘smartphone’ title is apt for the current scenario.

Mobile communication has been at the root of such a galloping rate of advancement in communication technology which has evolved from wires to wireless in the form of 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G technology.

With each successive number preceding the G, there has been a drastic change in amount and speed of data being transferred over a network. 5G technology is the new player in the field and has got everyone’s attention much because of its data rates and wide accessibility via various devices. But, it is not something you should put your trust on completely, at least for the time being.

Although promising, there are some question marks over the security of 5G technology.

Connected devices will benefit

The design focus of today’s electronic devices puts greater emphasis on user experience. No wonder, we find the word ‘smart’ paired with almost every household appliance. Smart TV, smartwatch are to name a few. Devices today can communicate with users, hence, need to rely on technology that assures high data speed and volume to be efficient in its job.

How fast is 5G and is there any latency?

5G technology promises data rate over 1 Gbps, meaning lower latency and hence, faster data transmission. That is 40x faster than the current 4G speed. Devices like fit bands, smartwatches, Google Home will benefit from these low latencies.

Currently, the only assurance of 5G technology is its data speed and ability to handle large volumes of data.

Now, focusing on things that it needs to offer.

The shortcomings

Vague AKA

Concerning 3G and 4G networking, there’s Authentication and Key Agreement or AKA. The AKA ensures a standard set of rules and protocols to be followed for networks to trust each other.

Researchers have found liabilities in the 5G AKA (more on A Formal Analysis of 5G Authentication). The two major vulnerabilities are

  • Ability to move usage charges to another user.
  • The possibility of tracking nearby devices.

There’s no standardization of mutual authentication and key agreement despite 5G using Authenticated Key Exchange protocol.

Network Infrastructure

For connectivity, the 5G technology will rely on various advanced and traditional configurations. Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) stand in for the advanced network systems while there’s also the conventional method of physical alteration of network access points.

Whatever may be the solution, 5G needs a robust network infrastructure. It is going to transmit a large amount of sensitive user data, meaning more scope for cyber-attacks due to more extensive data surface. The technology needs addressing to form something like an invincible shield, detecting, notifying and faltering any attacks.

Authentication of users

In the coming future, 5G technology will help to control every other device you come across ranging from your refrigerator to your autonomous car. With all this sophistication, 5G tech has to ensure that only genuine user has access to the devices and automobiles. It should allow for rigid and enhanced user authentication in devices to avoid issues like theft or misuse.

Privacy protection

Introduction of 5G technology means every user detail will exist in virtual spaces. Thus, there’s also a greater concern regarding user privacy protection. Users won’t trust the network if they feel they are at risk of any data or identity theft. 5G technology very much lacks in this regard and will need revisions to prevent the violation of user privacy.

Data integrity

There’s also the concern related to data integrity. A single piece of data could be accessed by various devices simultaneously, or be transmitted over numerous network points and devices. All these instances induce the probability of cyber-attacks. Any flaw in the system will lead the hacker to the information. What 5G needs to do is to maintain compatibility without compromise. It must ensure the devices or networks can access and transmit data without any risk of data loss or unauthorized modification. It should handle all aspects of interference, device discovery, and link up.

Conclusion

At present, 5G technology is a work in progress, and with each passing day, its importance is growing. But this growing importance should not turn into a desperate implementation of an incomplete system due to rising demand from the consumer devices. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, mainly related to the 5G security concerns. Speed is good, but it’s the security of the user and its data that will remain the critical factor in shaping the future of 5G technology.

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