Should businesses be concerned about 5G security?

In their eagerness to implement 5G, are businesses overlooking its security challenges?

5G is slowly gaining traction within enterprise. More 5G compatible devices are entering the market, and telecoms providers have started rolling out 5G connectivity at major hubs around the world. Offering unprecedented speeds that could eventually become 100 times faster than 4G, 5G technology is set to drastically change the way that businesses operate.

Yet, despite the opportunities it offers, businesses must not become complacent. The technology still has serious questions it must address, and its use in enterprise could still prove a double-edged sword. As the technology matures and more 5G devices enter the market, it is likely to become a significant threat that IT teams will have to monitor vigilantly. If not, they could face a challenge too large to handle.

What security issues does 5G present?

A recent report from AT&T suggests that businesses need to be doing more to adapt and prepare for 5G. Many organisations that have tried getting a head start on 5G have done so without truly understanding the implications it could have on the wider business landscape - leaving some susceptible to danger if things don't go to plan.

5G powered IoT devices are one of the main causes of concern that security teams must acknowledge. With the greater connectivity that 5G enables, billions more IoT devices are set to join the network. If even a fraction of these devices contain security vulnerabilities, security teams could find themselves inundated with new issues. Bharat Mistry, Principal Security Strategist at Trend Micro echoes this sentiment, arguing that "compromising these devices could take attacks such as ransomware to new levels whereby organisations could be held to hostage unless vast sums of money are paid".

Similarly, Nico Fischbach, CTO of Forcepoint, mentions how "businesses need to be aware of what devices have access to sensitive information and make sure they have visibility of and into them". Without visibility into the different potential entry points in their networks, security teams could find themselves leaking critical data before even realising it was there to begin with. And, with 5G enabling businesses to process more data at the network edge, even a small leak could prove quite damaging.

Besides maintaining IoT and device security, IT teams need to be aware of the issues that network slicing could present. F5 Solutions Architect, Andrew Bargery, highlights this and believes network slicing is one of the "key security solutions they [businesses] need to consider". The technology is discussed thoroughly in Positive Technologies' report on 5G security which comes to a similar conclusion to Bargery. Given that 5G will facilitate an increase in the number of network slices a business can operate, organisations need to maintain constant vigilance of their slices. To work effectively, each slice must be configured to specific conditions, and a large increase in the number of slices may lead to more configuration errors which could inadvertently weaken a company's overall security. Positive Technologies' research highlights this and explains how one in three successful attacks on 4G networks came from incorrect configuration of equipment - 5G's complexity could easily lead to this statistic increasing if not addressed correctly by security professionals.  

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