Remote work
cyber security:
New approaches
with 5G

Author: Sue Poremba

Remote work cyber security has presented employees with a number of challenges, not the least of which is reliable, secure connectivity. Wouldn't it be great to have virtual meetings without lag time? Imagine discussing highly-sensitive information with far-flung colleagues without having to worry if the connection is secure? With the rollout and availability of 5G in more locations, those working and learning from home will soon have faster and more secure connections.

But leveraging the promise of 5G will take some planning and coordination. The dramatic rise in remote working "mean[s] that senior IT and security managers have been called on to refocus efforts and help their organization re-orientate around secure remote working practices," Steve Durbin, managing director of the Information Security Forum, told Dice.

As businesses look ahead to the new year, IT and security leadership will need to factor 5G network cyber security into their overall remote work security plans.

Distinguishing 5G and 4G

While 4G is fast and will continue to be the right option for many businesses, 5G operates on higher frequency and offers more bandwidth. On a 4G network, it takes between five and 10 minutes to download a two-hour movie. Assuming a user is experiencing link connection of approximately 600 megabytes per second, on a 5G network, a two-hour movie 6 gigabytes will download in approximately 10 seconds. The faster speeds and higher bandwidth will allow for even greater productivity for the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in work environments.

There will also be lower latency with 5G, offering a benefit for remote work cyber security. Expect to see smartphones more regularly used as a replacement for Wi-Fi and cable modems, offering faster and more reliable from any location. Cellular data connections protect the user from outsiders. Even when using a home router, users are at risk from hackers who can detect the network connection. The low latency of 5G means users will be more willing to use unlimited data options as their full-time connection rather than the less secure options. 

How to maintain security when employees work remotely

Many organizations have security systems designed to protect the network perimeter from outsiders. Networks are often designed for onsite access. With remote work, access is coming from well-meaning insiders who are using unrecognized devices to access the network. Virtual private networks (VPN) can only do so much, and they've been found to have security flaws. Remote work cyber security needs to be both more endpoint- and data-centric.

With 5G, organizations get better security for remote work environments, primarily because of the technology's relationship to cloud-based software. Encryption is built into 5G through anti-spoofing and anti-tracking tools. Also, through network slicing, systems can be segmented into multiple virtual networks, each with its own customized security protections. Every device can be managed and protected individually, decreasing the risk of the entire network being compromised.

5G addresses remote work cyber security challenges

There will still be challenges with 5G security and remote work. The advanced capabilities that make 5G attractive will increase the number of IoT devices, which will multiply the number of potential vulnerabilities within the network. More devices mean more opportunities for outsiders to gain access. And with many more 5G-enabled IoT devices churning out security data in need of analysis, security monitoring operations need to scale their staff and tools to keep up. On the other hand, a key benefit 5G brings to IoT is the ability to bake security into the network architecture, easily handling options like encryption and zero-trust security. With 5G, developers can anticipate potential risk and provide systematic approaches toward mediation and mitigation.

Overall, 5G should be a boon to remote workers when all the components are in place. Increased functionality, better connections and lower latency will result in more productivity. Workers can do their jobs faster and more safely while making more secure network connections.

Remote work looks like it's here to stay for a long time, and 5G is an important solution to enable worker efficiency while addressing concerns about security connectivity.

Learn more about how 5G can help you reimagine your business.