Is The 5G Network Really Safe?
OK, so the title of this blog might have you thinking “oh no, not another one of those scaremongering weirdos in a tin foil hat” but hear me out (I promise the only thing I am using tin foil for is to swap up my sweetcorn on the BBQ…)
5G is big news right now. Recent tech and even mainstream news sites have been filled to the brim with excitement for the arrival of 5G and, with download speeds faster than we’ve ever seen before, it’s easy to understand why! But with any technological advancement comes a wave of fear and controversy courtesy of conspiracy theorists, and 5G has been no exception. Here are some of my favourites so far:
- 5G causes cancer
- 5G causes, spreads or aggravates COVID-19
- China is using 5G to spy on us all
- Bill Gates is using 5G to brainwash us all
- The UN is using 5G to reduce the human population
- The COVID-19 lockdowns were actually a way to keep us all at home while the government install 5G towers
- 5G kills birds
- 5G damages the environment
Finished laughing? Good, now let’s get onto the serious stuff.
The real concern we should be having around 5G is not our imminent death of all wildlife, loss of brain function, or the impending doom of the human population. It is in fact the less dramatic (but still very important) matter of cyber security.
Let’s look at this in a little more detail…
How Exactly Is 5G Risking Our Cyber Security?
The problem is that, when a technological development comes along promising a significant improvement in network speed and data transfer volume, cyber security is generally the last thing telecoms providers are thinking about. As a result, much of the security risk associated with 5G is actually a part of the way it was developed.
You see, 5G is different from its predecessors 2G, 3G, and 4G because it relies on something called a “virtualized network core”. Unfortunately, virtualized network segments are far more likely to experience the kind of vulnerabilities that attackers use to gain unauthorized access to a network.
Furthermore, 5G also utilizes a technique called ‘network slicing’, which is basically a method of network organisation that enables the shared communication of multiple network “slices” on one physical network infrastructure. Each “slice” is an isolated end-to-end network designed to fulfill the requirements of one particular application. In short, this is what enabled 5G to transfer such enormous volumes of data simultaneously. Despite its merits, network slicing does not come without its risks. For starters, it requires the set-up of multiple virtual networks and RAN partitions, which in turn create more potential doorways for cyber criminals to hack their way in.
Finally, many of 5G’s real-world applications (e.g. self-driving vehicles, video surveillance, and the internet of things) rely on a data storage system known as multi-access edge computing. This basically means that, instead of all associated data being stored together in the cloud, it is stored, processed, and analyzed at the very edge of the network (as close as possible to the network’s endpoints). This means data can be analysed and acted upon incredibly quickly, but it also creates a much wider access route (almost end-to-end) for cyber criminals to attack.
With All This Said, Is A Secure 5G Connection Still Possible?
According to my friends (A.K.A. the people I worship) at Arqit, their QuantumCloud™ cyber security solution is perfectly capable of securing 5G connections. All you have to do is enable the product at all the end points at which your organisation communicates using 5G, and you’re protected by Arqit’s symmetric key encryption service. Even better, QuantumCloud™ is the only solution available right now that is capable of protecting communications from the threat of quantum computing (the tech phenomenon that is widely predicted to be our next cyber security problem). So not only would your network be protected from the security problems caused by 5G, but it would also be protected against cyber security problems we aren’t even quite facing yet!