Innovation in detail: security risks with 5G benefits

The ever-evolving world of the internet is soon going to have another enhancement for consumers – 5G technology. 5G connectivity will soon be available for use across the world, as various telecom companies are currently testing the technology.

Once implemented, 5G will offer an exponential rise in internet speeds over the existing 4G technology, and this can only benefit consumers and businesses. Improved internet speeds will increase the usage of the internet on mobile phones, especially in developing countries, and this will lead to a rise in transactions and purchases on online stores and marketplaces.

The entertainment industry, and especially betting and gambling companies would also benefit massively, as customers will now be able to place bets from their mobile phones without having to worry about internet connectivity and the accessibility of sites. At the same time, online real money casinos will be all the rage, as users will not need to step out of their homes to be able to play casino games like poker and blackjack. It is not as if they cannot do so at the moment with the existing technology, however, 5G is much faster and more reliable, making it easier for any online transaction to be carried out.

However, there are usually two sides to every story, and this is no different. While 5G will offer huge benefits in terms of speed and reliability, there are also concerns about its security. Experts say that 5G networks will increase access points for hackers to break into by hundred-folds over 4G. The very design of 5G networks could be a reason for this.

While 4G technology and older networks had a hub-and-spoke design, where there were hardware ‘chokepoints’ which could be maintained in order to control the network’s security and hygiene, 5G will use a system of digital routers, where software will pick up the job of managing the network. This makes it more difficult to inspect and control the network, and the increased vulnerability will not be managed by encryption alone.

Secondly, 5G signals are high-frequency but short-ranged. As a result, there will be a need to set up multiple towers and antennae throughout urban areas to ensure adequate connectivity, and this will provide hackers with many more hard locations to target.

Thirdly, the Internet of Things (IoT) has meant that there has been an explosion of devices which use the internet. Nowadays, even your fridge and coffee machine come equipped with the capability to connect to the internet, which again increases the number of potential devices for hackers to sneak into.

So, in the face of all of these concerns, what can be done to ensure that 5G is a stable and secure network which can be used freely by the general public?

First of all, there is a need to create a culture around cyber awareness. There are too many people who use internet-enabled devices but are not aware of the risks from hackers. There will need to be an increased focus on educating consumers of the risks of internet usage, and the steps they can take to mitigate those risks. Companies would need to implement internal security measures. They would also need to ensure that all devices that are connected to their 5G networks, including employees’ and visitors’ personal devices, are secure. Governments will have to come up with regulatory standards and product labeling for 5G-enabled products in order to ensure their security and reliability.

Thus, we see that while the impending arrival of 5G technology will be another game-changer in terms of internet access, there are multiple risks inherent with its usage, and so consumers, companies and governments will have to take the necessary steps to ensure that such networks are safe to use.