The opportunities and 
challenges of 5G

Mobile Security Index
2020 Report

  • Data transfer to cloud based apps
    • When people think of 5G, their first thought is often about speed. While it’s true that dramatic improvements in speed are part of the equation, that’s only one aspect of a much broader revolution.

      5G opens up a whole new approach to managing and securing cellular networks. Wireless broadband for fixed locations will be one of the early use cases. This will help to enable higher bandwidth for areas with limited access and provide connectivity for events, pop-up stores and other temporary demands.

      The anticipated speed and reliability of 5G means it may quickly become many businesses’ first choice for data. Companies stand to benefit from exciting new interactive services, like augmented and virtual reality. 5G is also expected to accelerate developments in IoTapplications, including connected vehicles, smart spaces and intelligent buildings.

      5G is underpinned by a virtualized, cloud-based architecture that makes it easier to enable highly specialized functions— and security—for different network applications. In the future, this is expected to blur the distinctions between fixed networks (including those accessed over Wi-Fi) and cellular networks. Cellular already accounts for over a quarter (28%) of data transfer to cloud apps and, as 5G expands and more mobile tools are deployed to frontline workers, this number is likely to grow. In fact, 80% of our respondents said that within five years, mobile will be their primary means of accessing cloud services.

  • 5G will transform many industries.

    5G promises to deliver numerous benefits, including:

    • Increased productivity —predictive maintenance of equipment, cutting downtime; more responsive supply chains; greater visibility of production
    • Enhanced customer experiences — augmented reality in stores, personalization
    • Increased efficiency —real-time monitoring of goods, cutting losses from spoilage and shrinkage; modelling of process changes using digital twins
    • Improved safety and well-being remote patient monitoring and telemedicine, improving patient care; smart safety monitoring, like collision avoidance systems—both on the road and in facilities like ports and warehouses
    • Increased automation — autonomous vehicles, including delivery trucks; autonomous checkouts in retail stores

    These are just some of the innovations that have been predicted or are being worked on. Few, if any, industries won't be affected.

    Security features of 5G

    As the number and variety of connected devices and applications grows, and the volume of data mushrooms, the “attack surface” will expand too. Fortunately, 5G has features to help counter that.

    Better protection against unauthorized tracking and ID theft

    When a device attempts to connect to a 5G network, it sends an ID in encrypted form. The Subscription Concealed Identifier (SUCI) is encrypted using the home network’s public key. A private algorithm, the Subscription Identifier De-concealing Function (SIDF), enables the home network operator, and them alone, to convert this ID to the device’s true identity, the Subscription Permanent Identifier (SUPI, akin to the IMSI in 4G).

    This process helps prevent devices from being tracked or users' privacy being compromised. If the device  has authenticated before, it may have been given a token (Globally Unique Temporary Identifier, or 5G-GUTI) that serves as a proxy for the SUCI. As tokens are short-lived, this helps to further conceal each device’s identity. This is among the most significant security improvements in 5G over 4G.

    Greater resilience against attacks

    5G takes advantage of software- defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) technologies. One advantage of this move toward more network management being done in software is shorter update cycles. This will  have numerous benefits, including enabling service providers to roll out new features more quickly and scale network functions more easily. As well as making networks more responsive to changes in traffic, this will mean that services can be independently isolated, restarted or replaced if they fall under attack.

    Support for new devices and use cases

    Less reliance on dedicated hardware means that service providers will be able to tailor security requirements to the specific needs of different use cases. For instance, highly sensitive applications, such as remote patient monitoring, could have the most rigorous and robust level of service, while a less sensitive application, such as weather monitoring, could operate with standard security and resilience. 5G also opens up new options for authentication to support a wider range of devices.

    Improved protection when roaming

    When a 5G device roams to a different network, typically when travelling abroad, the guest network may do some initial validation and refuse a connection if there is no roaming agreement, but that network must pass the user’s credentials to the home network for final verification. This new procedure helps to prevent fraudulent attempts to obtain service or device credentials.

    Better protection from rogue base stations

    A rogue base station, also known as an “IMSI catcher” or “Stingray,” imitates a legitimate cellular base station and enables criminals to commit MitM attacks, where they can eavesdrop on users’  communications—both  voice and data. When using a 5G network, as with 4G LTE, devices must authenticate the network using implicit keys derived from the key agreement procedure. 5G devices will also verify when using non- 3GPP networks, such as Wi-Fi. This should help reduce MitM attacks.

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