Balancing 5G Network Capability and Convenience With Security

Fifth-Generation Mobile Technology Presents a Risk-Reward Scenario

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Throughout history, advances in technical capabilities produced labor-saving devices. Washers and dryers, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, and telephones are among the endless list of modern conveniences materializing through innovation. Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephonic connection provided the seed for what ultimately became cellular devices in 1973. Before comprehensive wireless technology, network security was far less an issue.

Each generation’s telecommunications devices paved the way for the next advanced capability. Analog (1G), was followed by the first cellular device (2G). Next came improved processor capability (3G), then Long-Term Evolution (LTE including 4G). We are now on the brink of widespread implementation of 5G (fifth generation).

Even Faster Mobile Connections

According to PC Mag, the first wave of 5G offers an X4 capacity boost over existing systems. It also delivers wider bandwidth and advanced antenna technologies to reduce signal latency for those lacking in “digital patience.” The 5G technology employs low frequencies with existing WiFi speed 25% to 50% over current LTE technologies (the “bars” on your cell phone measure the strength of LTE).

“5G promises super-fast connections, but that dramatically increases the security risk.”

The 5G technology initially uses “onboard” capabilities in some 4G cellular devices’ core capabilities in a non- standalone (NSA) network. In time, the 5G will become standalone, just not initially.

Reuters explains that “The core is where the network’s most critical controls are located and the most sensitive information is stored, while the periphery includes masts, antennas and other passive equipment.”

Convenient 5G Networks Need a Secure Framework

Technology use by government demands secure networks to protect communications sensitive to a nation’s security. Britain plans to limit China’s Huawei Technologies to a restricted role in its emerging 5G mobile networks.

The US government is calling for an outright ban on Huawei tech in 5G networks. Officials believe that Beijing spying or sabotage could be in play.

Modern, convenient technology carries with it potential data exposure for us all. The challenge requires weighing that against the pivotal aspects of telecommunications today and in the future. Larger, faster, and more complex networks mean increased opportunities for hacking and cyber crime.

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As Reuters observed, “5G promises super-fast connections which tech evangelists say will transform the way we live our lives…But that dramatically increases the security risk, U.S. officials say, because of the increasingly central role that telecommunications will play in our lives and the expected dramatic increase in connected devices in the network.”

Fred Warner
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