Relaunching mobile networks in 5G, which can reach rates up to 10 times faster than what we have now, will transform our way of communicating, interacting online, and sharing content. Greater speeds will however also provide threat actors with an increased ability to exploit more computers and initiate further cyber attacks, according to analysts.

Similar to how 4G networks have contributed to the pervasiveness of smartphones and the possibility of artificially intelligent machines, 5G will contribute to the exponential increase of billions of new devices connected to the Internet. This will open up burgeoning opportunities for consumers, industries, and society to advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning which will transform everything we do.

We also expect new threats to appear in 2020, as unbelievably devious denial of service (DDoS) attacks continue to rise.

The idea that hackers develop programs simply as a way to get extra cash is troubling. Yet, some of these dangerous programs have taken down Internet servers, affecting millions. It shows that not all issues related to cyber threats were the original intention of the cyber criminals.

How does 5G security come into play here? Well, 5G security will affect anything — any device — connected to the Internet. Systems will be activated and wired from a variety of media as long as 5G networks are reachable to the general public.

The devices are going to be smarter than expected

Anything, ranging from intelligent thermostats and intelligent TVs to smart home security networks, will plug into higher-level networks. As a result, 5G security may provide an entire host of new apps, software, and programs for threat actors to exploit at their convenience. It is not much of an offshoot to expect the emergence of another botnet targeting vulnerable, unsafe 5G devices, indicating we can predict another set of attacks similar to the dangerous Mirai botnet attack.

The virtualization of higher-tier network software functions formerly executed through physical appliances exacerbate the potential cyber threats. Such operations are focused on the Internet Protocol’s common language and popular operating systems. By using uniform block procedures, and frameworks, state or criminal threat actors have more at their disposal to do harm. Another major issue is the vulnerability around 5G endpoint security.

Since 5G devices, for instance Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) nodes, are connected to the network, authentication and certification are just the tip of the necessary iceberg. In the next five years, we recommend implementing tighter network access controls and constructing new systems to ensure device authentication.

Whether human, or machine, a zero-trust security model will be quite useful during the 5G era and beyond. This model is consistent in monitoring user behavior of both humans and machines. Many enterprises are already implementing zero-trust models, but this needs to trickle down to any organization with networks and smart devices. In addition, multi-factor authentication (MFA) should already be in place.

Bandwidths will change

Currently, many security solutions provide real-time network monitoring. But, increased bandwidth may raise some red flags. Currently, some cyber attacks are imposed by insiders. Nonetheless, infected machines will require further analysis.

Still, due to bandwidth limitations — prior to 5G — these types of security systems can keep up. There is only so much traffic a network can handle at any given time. It might be bad in terms of efficiency, but it has been good for managing traffic. Once 5G arrives, capacity and speeds will be mind-blowing.

What does this mean? It means all security solutions must be updated — the same is true for firewalls around prevention and encryption. Since 5G will provide a powerful latency boost, many legacy security solutions will fail to work as intended.

Since more devices will be connected to the Internet, than ever before in our history, the threat landscape becomes much larger. In fact, the idea of cybersecurity must now be expanded to consider and manage every single possibility.

Watch out for smart appliances, they can be hacked. Is the office fridge malfunctioning? How can you tell it’s not a hacker? Is the company coffee machine spewing out hot coffee all over the place? What if it was a threat actor? Is your self-driving car veering dangerously off the highway? All of these scenarios, and more, need to be addressed with a comprehensive cybersecurity plan and solution.

A new range of safety mechanisms must be put in place to protect incoming and outgoing connections related to 5G networks. We are talking about machine sensors and remotely-operated tools for smart equipment.

Everything is at risk

Security solutions will need to offer a wider range of protocols to protect every vulnerable operation. What if your company security system was hacked? This will not only promote new security standards— such as outsourcing to a more competent vendor, yet still have far-reaching consequences for the data security of businesses overall.

Think about the company fridge. You may not think it transmits sensitive information — it’s a fridge, with donuts and leftover pizza inside. But, outer appearances are irrelevant. Threat actors could use your company fridge to supplement their devious activities. Another example is hackers may infiltrate your organization’s television monitor and spy on your staff while they’re watching instructional videos or viewing company marketing messages.

Proactive cyber security needs to escalate from being the exception to being the rule.  Many smaller companies just don’t have the resources to invest in comprehensive cyber security solutions, which make them easy targets for hackers.  Another major concern are companies that provide critical infrastructure or who offer a service, that if hacked, could put public safety at risk.

Protect your software

The era of 5G will see an increase in software attacks, which means more software security will be needed. And, it’s not just humans we’re fighting, it will also be nefariously-controlled machines. This calls for a need of continuous visibility throughout the entire environment. At every level of your supply chain, cyber protections should be implemented.

As mentioned earlier, one of the best protocols involves a zero-trust environment.

Even if 5G does come with basic security features, it does not mitigate every potential threat. Network operators, consumers, and businesses have shared security responsibilities. Everyone must be proactive with cybersecurity now. For short-staffed organizations, a managed service provider offers much needed solutions to meet modern threats.

Final thought

The overall concept is that improved 5G and WI-FI networks can offer a wide range of advantages including higher traffic availability and lower latency. The result is more consumers, and businesses, will adopt and adapt the new networks.

Sadly, it will also present a range of cyber security issues and challenges, especially with regard to existing security strategies.

Everyone needs to have plans in place to improve their current security deployments. Without an updated security strategy, and implementation, the ripple effect could be disastrous. Just as we witnessed with the Mirai botnet, sensitive consumer data is at risk.