The Impact of 5G Networks on Cybersecurity


Mar 7, 2020

Mar 7, 2020


5G is a wireless technology with higher speeds and increased bandwidth, which means that you can download/stream videos online at a faster rate without worrying much about the number of users on the network. 5G networks also help reduce the time needed for data to travel across the network. This process is called latency, which is a major factor in automated processes, such as self-driving cars and factory robots. Due to the massive connectivity of devices collectively known as the Internet of Things (IoT) across 5G networks, viable and in-depth security measures should be in place to prevent cybercriminals from hijacking the connected devices or launching Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

Vulnerabilities of 5G Networks to Cyber Attacks

5G Networks are an important component of the next-generation digital transformation. This technological advancement brings its own share of risk as indicated below:

  • 5G Networks increased its vulnerability to cyberattacks by the use of software higher-level network functions previously performed by physical appliances. These are hinged on the Internet Protocol and Operating System that have proven to be easy for Cybercriminals to attack.
  • Huge bandwidth expansion inherent in 5G technology makes it faster than previous networks. Large file downloads are exceedingly fast. Network security is thus compromised due to 5G network’s rapid network speeds.
  • IoT devices on 5G networks would also be prone to cyberattacks that have physical consequences. There is increasing control of massive functions such as door locks and building access control systems by IoT devices, and attacks launched on such systems may result in the infliction of physical harm.
  • In the 5G Network, once a user’s IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) is exposed via an IMSI-cracking attack, attackers can snoop on the user by intercepting phone calls and real-time location tracking.
  • Autonomous vehicles on 5G networks are prone to automotive cyber-attacks as they can easily fall victim to interference.
  • With the use of 5G networks in the Healthcare Industry, the industry is prone to the theft of medical information and the invasion of health privacy attacks.

Inherent Controls to Mitigate 5G Cyber Threats

While the use examples above show vulnerabilities in the 5G Network, there are built-in security components to help mitigate these threats. A major component of 5G is trustworthiness, which is devised from a set of technical security features, system design principles, and implementation considerations. Below are some of the intrinsic security components of 5G:

Network Components for 5G Security

i)  Secure Edge

Real-Time detection should be available at the edge such that it detects and stop attacks before it makes it to the core.

ii)  Secure SDN Controller

The use of a secure SDN Controller will manage flow control to the switches/routers, and support proactive/reactive security monitoring and traffic analysis.

iii)  Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Protection

Based on patterns discovered in previous breach attempts, Machine Learning and AI are used to detect the possibility of a breach in a network.

iv)  Hypervisor and Container Security

Virtual elements in a Hypervisor should be protected from VM based attacks. Hypervisor inspection should be included by Network Operators to prevent such attacks.

v)  Security through Orchestration

This type of security leverages the 5G Network’s software-defined architecture to orchestrate virtual network functions to react automatically and alert the orchestrator to a breach. Orchestrators can instruct a software-defined networking controller to enact a security protocol to halt the attack.

3GPP Security Mechanism for 5G Networks

The 5G Security Mechanism developed by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) is the new radio access technology that provides a reliable link for non-malicious poor radio conditions.

i) Confidentiality of User Plane Data

The traffic data transmitted over the network are the end-users’ encrypted data to prevent eavesdropping over the air.

ii)  Encryption and Integrity Protection

3GPP Standards ensure correct choices are made during the selection of encryption and integrity protection algorithms. 3GPP depends on well-proven IETF Security protocols.

iii) A False Base Station

In 3GPP, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) theft is prevented. This is through an approach where the users’ long term identifier is not transmitted over the radio interface in simple text.

iv) Compartmentalization

It is achieved in 5G by the use of functions that prevents possible security breaches from moving up from one part of the network to another. With this, the security of sensitive data is ensured even when a part of the network is breached.

At Wilson Consulting Group, we recognize that security is a top priority for businesses. We provide security solutions for 5G Networks that evaluate the security of devices and networks in businesses and help to protect them from cyber attacks by:

  • Ensuring that the cybersecurity strategy aligns with the business strategy;
  • Recommending the use of recent and emerging technological solutions to improve cybersecurity capabilities;
  • Establishing a standard security framework that follows a risk-based approach; and
  • Establishing a governance program to comply with external regulatory requirements.

Wilson Consulting Group is an innovative global cybersecurity consulting firm. We offer Cyber Intelligence, Cyber Security Assessment, Penetration Testing, and Vulnerability Assessment Services to evaluate any threats that your organization may face and provide solutions to combat them.

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