The advent of 5G networks is about much more than just incredibly fast speeds and more reliable connections.
This post originally appeared as a bylined article in IoT Agenda.
When combined with today’s powerful edge devices — whether consumer-grade smart devices or the new generation of industrial-grade IoT devices — the impact of 5G on business and networking strategies will be transformational. There are important implications for digital transformation that need to be considered, especially when it comes to securing the new network environments that 5G and edge-based computing will create.
The Impact of 5G on Networks
As 5G begins to be widely available, several things will happen:
Because these edge-based computing resources will be highly distributed, they will need to be interconnected using enterprise-grade applications and high-speed connections to ensure that the huge volumes of data, workflows and transactions they will create are tracked and analyzed in real time. 5G networking will also offer application developers and content providers cloud computing capabilities and an IT service environment at the edge of mobile networks to create new services. However, these open, hyperconnected edge networks will also have serious implications for how devices, data, applications and workflows can be managed, along with how they connect to traditional and cloud-based networks.
Examples of 5G and IoT
Enhanced communication services within connected cars, for example, will go well beyond the current set of interactions that already occur internally between onboard IoT devices such as braking, environment monitors, GPS and even entertainment systems. Live connections between drivers and businesses will enable financial transactions, such as paying for fuel, ordering food at a drive-thru restaurant or paying tolls, without having to pull out a credit card. Communications between vehicles and between cars and infrastructure-based IoT will enable enhanced traffic management and augment things like autonomous driving at highway speeds.
Likewise, there are significant implications for healthcare and medical IoT. 5G speeds will allow the real-time transmission of data to support things like remote surgery, the tracking of monitors and other connected medical devices, including wearable medical IoT, and the analysis of tests and scans by remote professionals. These advances will not only allow patients to have access to the best physicians in the world, but they will also extend 21st-century medical care to remote locations that currently lack reliable medical resources.
Security Implications for 5G and IoT
These new connected environments will also have serious consequences for security. The biggest challenge will be the sudden, exponential growth of the attack surface due to the rapid expansion of IoT devices and edge-based computing. This will be followed closely by the fact that these devices won’t necessarily be connected to a central network in a traditional hub-and-spoke configuration. With literally billions of IoT devices interconnected across a meshed edge environment, any device can become the weakest link in the security chain and expose the entire enterprise to risk. Addressing this challenge will require some fundamental shifts in how we think about networking and security.
These are just a handful of the security implications resulting from the adoption and deployment of 5G networks. But that is just the start of the impact of this new era of networking and computing. Security will also need to address the following scenarios:
Where to Start
Many organizations are clearly underestimating the potential impact of the coming 5G revolution and the effect it will have on how they conduct commerce and compete effectively within the next iteration of the digital economy. However, there are a few things that organizations can do now to prepare. The most effective approach would be to migrate from traditional, isolated point defense products to a security fabric designed to be integrated, automated and open using open APIs and common standards. This approach also need to combine single-pane-of-glass management and control with security technologies that can move seamlessly across traditional, SD-WAN, multi-cloud and highly mobile endpoint and IoT devices for consistent visibility and control.
Organizations that begin preparing now for the security and networking implications of 5G, especially as billions of new IoT devices will be deployed in the next year, will be far ahead of their competitors. And in today’s highly evolving digital marketplace, that difference is likely to be critical.
Read more about securing 4G, 5G and beyond with Fortinet's Security Fabric.