5G—Network, Technology, and Security—All You Need To Know

The term "5G" refers to the fifth generation of cellular technology. 5G may be able to introduce speeds as high as 20 Gbps to mobile carriers.

The higher speeds of 5G will result in lower latency, making real-time interaction with business applications and digital experiences smoother and more efficient. In addition, 5G has encryption embedded within its technology, which, when combined with other security measures, can provide users with a safer experience.

What Is 5G?

The “5” in 5G stands for “fifth” while the “G” refers to “generation.” 5G is therefore the fifth iteration of the technology cellular networks use.

How Does 5G Work?

5G transmits cellular signals over 5G New Radio (NR), which uses spectrums that 4G does not. This requires new antennas that use a technology called massive multiple input multiple output (MIMO), which allows several receivers and transmitters to exchange larger amounts of data at the same time.

What Are the Better Possibilities Brought About by 5G?

Massive Internet-of-Things (IoT) Infrastructure

IoT requires many devices to process and transmit information over the internet, usually using wireless technology. 4G wireless technology can only handle around 1 Gbps of data at the most. With 5G, devices and processes that need more than that will have a network capable of supporting their function.

More Efficient Smart Cities and Industry

The wireless infrastructure necessary to support smart cities and a variety of industries requires more bandwidth than 4G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) can provide. With 5G, a municipality can incorporate a full network of smart devices and processes.

5G vs. 4G

There is a mix of information about 5G vs 4G. What is 5G network in comparison to 4G? Further, what does 5G mean if you already have 4G connections? There are several key differences.

5G Is Faster Than 4G

By some estimates, 5G is able to produce 10 times the speed of 4G. This can improve the performance of everything from watching videos to processing complex computational workloads wirelessly.

5G Is More Responsive Than 4G

One of the pivotal advantages of 5G is its low latency. With a lower-latency network, businesses can deploy devices that respond to human- or machine-initiated input in a fraction of the time currently possible.

5G Uses Less Power Than 4G

5G may be able to use as little as 90% of the power 4G currently consumes. This would mean longer battery life and a lower draw on power plants.

5G Provides Strong, Fast Service More Reliably Than 4G

With 5G, users experience fewer service dropouts and interruptions while simultaneously enjoying faster speeds.

5G Can Carry More Devices Than 4G

Because 5G can handle as much as 10 times the bandwidth of 4G, it can, given the equal bandwidth requirements of each device, increase the number of devices it can handle by a factor of 10 as well. This makes it possible for large networks of IoT devices to run simultaneously while interacting with each other.

But 5G Is Harder To Install and Deploy

5G networks require new physical infrastructure, as well as software to manage the connections and data transfers. A company launching a 5G network may be forced to pass much of the infrastructure expense on to its users.

Cybersecurity Concerns for 5G?

Decentralized Security

Is 5G dangerous? It would be virtually impossible to set up a centralized cybersecurity infrastructure for all 5G devices, and if the effort is successful, a successful attack can result in chaos. For this reason, a 5G network will require decentralized security. However, if each device or subnet within a 5G network has its own security, as different devices and processes interact, they can accidentally introduce threats to each other, sacrificing continuity and safety.

More Bandwidth Will Strain Current Security Monitoring

Current security frameworks can only support a relatively small amount of data when compared to what a 5G network will require. As security systems analyze data packets, each check and process takes up time and bandwidth. If the amount of data is increased by a factor of 10, few security systems can perform proper packet inspection without sacrificing throughput.

Many IoT Devices Are Manufactured with a Lack of Security

Is 5G safe? IoT devices are often designed to merely connect to a network and get to work. However, each one presents at least one additional attack surface. With an influx of IoT devices that may come as 5G grows in popularity, there can be far more unsecured IoT devices for hackers to target.

Lack of Encryption Early in the Connection Process

Although 5G presents the possibility of end-to-end encryption, more is needed. Attackers can still gain access to devices early in the connection process, before the devices start sending and receiving data over the 5G network. With many undersecured devices on the network, attackers can penetrate a range of networks as soon as they gain access to one 5G device.

Examples of Known Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

Botnet Attack

A botnet can be formed when a network of devices is controlled by malware. 5G paves the way for many networks of connected devices, which is an ideal target for a botnet attack. The successful penetration of one device can result in hundreds of thousands of IoT devices falling under the control of hackers.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

In a typical distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, which floods a server with false requests to prevent it from being used by legitimate users, a group of users may not be able to connect to a website. In the grand scheme of things, this is inconvenient but not typically life-threatening. But with devices such as self-driving vehicles connected to a 5G network, a DDoS attack can have disastrous consequences.

Man-in-the-Middle (MTM) Attacks

With a MITM attack, information exchanged between two devices is intercepted and can be changed. With smart-city devices connected to a 5G network, for example, crucial municipal infrastructures can be interrupted or hijacked by successful MITM attacks.

Location Tracking and Call Interception

Each device you connect to an internet network, regardless of which technology it uses, provides location information.

The Future of Cybersecurity and 5G

5G Security Foundations Are Needed in Networks First

Building a 5G-dependent network without adequate security is like building a bank without walls. Even if you add the walls bit by bit, the initial theft will dash any hopes of running a successful business. Similarly, 5G security is a must before your organization can successfully engage with the technology.

Manufacturers Need an Incentive To Up Their Security Efforts

In many situations, once a manufacturer sells a product, keeping it secure from cyberattacks is the consumer’s responsibility. This minimizes the impact of hacks on the manufacturer’s bottom line. They will have to be incentivized to improve their security before they are allowed to sell 5G-capable devices.

Consumer Education on IoT Cybersecurity is Necessary

Consumers relish the convenience of plug-and-play devices. However, if they are not educated on the security risks before plugging in, their devices are low-hanging fruit for threat actors.

How Can You Prepare for 5G?

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) gives you end-to-end encryption regardless of the network to which you are connected. With a VPN in place, you greatly reduce the chances of MITM attacks and many malware-dependent cyber threats.

Practice Strong Password Security

Using passwords that are easy to crack is like hiding your key under your doormat. Although passwords provide some security, sophisticated attackers can easily bypass them. Strong password security can be enough to deter an opportunistic hacker. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) can also bolster your protection because it gives attackers at least one extra hurdle to overcome.

Keep All Your IoT Devices Updated with Security Patches

If attackers figure out a way to penetrate an IoT device that you use, the manufacturer may create a patch that addresses the vulnerability. If your IoT devices all have the latest patches, you decrease the number of vulnerabilities hackers can exploit.

Install an Antivirus Solution on All Your Devices

An antivirus solution can shield your devices from the millions of viruses swarming around the internet. Because 5G can present the opportunity for new viruses, a continuously updating antivirus solution is a valuable protective measure.

Update the Default Back-end Passwords on All Your IoT Devices

Many IoT devices have default passwords like “admin,” and while these help simplify the installation process, it leaves the devices open to attackers. Changing the default password to one that is harder to guess can be enough to dissuade attackers scouring the internet for easily hackable devices.

Protect All Your Devices Today

To take full advantage of a VPN, strong passwords, patch updates, antivirus protection, and updated IoT passwords, you should get started now. Not only do these provide better protection in the short term but they also create a security-minded culture for your entire organization. This way, when you decide to adopt a 5G-based solution, stakeholders will already be accustomed to safe practices.

How Fortinet Can Help

With the FortiGate VPN solution, you can secure your connections between networks and team members regardless of the wireless technology—4G or 5G. A secure connection is established and all network traffic gets encrypted. In addition, you benefit from secure sockets layer (SSL) inspection that checks each data packet for malware.  

The FortiGate next-generation firewall (NGFW) can serve as a barrier between your network and attackers, filtering out threats that can arise because of 5G vulnerabilities. FortiGate uses machine learning to pinpoint zero-day threats. As 5G grows in popularity, new threats are bound to pop up on the landscape. Because FortiGate can pinpoint these based on their behavior, your network is better protected and users are more secure.

FAQs

What is 5G technology and how does it work?

The term "5G" refers to the fifth generation of cellular technology. 5G transmits cellular signals over 5G New Radio (NR), which will use spectrums that 4G does not. This requires new antennas that use a technology called massive multiple input multiple output (MIMO), which allows several receivers and transmitters to exchange larger amounts of data at the same time.

What is the difference between 4G and 5G?

5G is faster than 4G and can handle up to 10 times the bandwidth. This results in faster, more responsive application performance and a better overall user experience.

How secure is the 5G network?

The 5G network encrypts network transmissions, which provides a level of security. However, because users can connect to any network and various devices with different degrees of security, additional security will be necessary.