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Is your cyber security
prepared for 5G?

Author: Sue Poremba

It seems like 5G has been on the horizon for years, but all indications are that 2021 could be the year we will begin to see what it can really do. Devices, infrastructure and technology are being tested and refined, and 5G is ready to roll—and it could do more than increase bandwidth and reduce latency.

"5G will not only strengthen and greatly improve existing use cases, but it will also power brand-new experiences," CRN notes.

But increased capabilities require stronger security measures. Is your cyber security infrastructure ready to ensure 5G security?

The impact of 5G on the network

Statista predicts that there will be around 50 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices by 2030. The IoT was already poised for significant growth, with or without an improved mobile and wireless standard. But 5G could incentivize faster adoption and open opportunities for wider application.

5G security could also drive the shift to edge computing, which could improve data processing and network traffic prioritization. With artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, companies could see faster communication between devices and more effective data use.

To meet the new demands for data processing and supported devices and to support the innovative applications that 5G's improved latency can enable, organizations will need to audit—and possibly augment—their networks. Cloud computing could see a greater role in corporate network infrastructure. And because not all devices on the network will have 5G capability, the infrastructure will need to be equipped to support several mobile standards.

Rethinking the cyber security infrastructure

Organizations will have to adapt their cyber security infrastructure to get the most out of 5G applications. 5G means more devices to manage and more data to govern. Organizations need to ensure that 5G-driven innovations do not outpace security oversight and go into production without proper security controls.

The Brookings Institution points to five areas where 5G will force a change in the way organizations approach cyber security:

  • The adoption of a software-driven routing system, rather than hardware-centric systems
  • The reliance on software for higher-level functions once conducted by hardware
  • The detection of software vulnerabilities when software is used as the network
  • The need for dynamic cyber solutions for expanding bandwidth use
  • The increase in entry points for threat actors because of the exponential growth of the IoT

Ensuring 5G security for applications

The increased reliance on software applications and IoT devices leaves the back door to your entire network architecture open, if not properly secured. The first step to protecting anything connected to 5G is visibility. Eliminate any unmanaged devices and shadow IT, and require anyone who uses the organization's network to report their connections, whether work-authorized or personal. A zero trust security protocol can fortify your protection.

Introducing 5G—and the new capabilities that come with it—does not mean abandoning old-school cyber security tools. Encryption and authentication will continue to be vital safeguards for data and applications. Before they bring their devices to market, manufacturers should be pushed to improve security and make it easier for organizations to add their own security systems and upgrade firmware. And DevOps must prioritize security to protect the app development process.

No organization should feel like they have to tackle 5G security issues alone. Their cyber security infrastructure can include a managed services partner that specializes in protecting virtual networks.

Improve your cyber security infrastructure with 5G

While 5G security will create new considerations, you can leverage the next-generation network to improve your security posture. Encryption is still a critical cyber security tool, although 4G’s inherent baseline security remains strong.

Companies will be able to set up security for applications and create updates and protocols unique to each device. This marks another change from 4G, which has universal update settings.

And with 5G, users can add better protections to devices that share sensitive information and limit updates from other devices. Smartphones, tablets, wearables and security cameras set to higher security levels than the smart appliances used in the office break room, and users can have more say in setting priorities.

As 5G becomes more widely used, its cyber security needs will come into greater focus. Understanding how your infrastructure will need to adapt to the changes it will bring about will give you a head start on updating your security systems.

Learn how Verizon can support changing security needs.