Hands off my 5G: Securing the future of connectivity

By CyberArk

CyberArk shares how to prevent a compromised 5G network from creating a harmful ripple effect across society.

The aircon helped get Ronald Reagan elected. In 1951, the air conditioning unit became widely affordable in the US, leading more people to move to warm southern states. As these states saw population booms, it created an electoral base that got Reagan elected, PBS wrote.

The development of technology can have a fun ripple effect, but it can also have a harmful one. 5G adoption will create security gaps that hackers can exploit - a worrying prospect as 53 per cent of the world’s population is expected to rely on it by 2025, wrote TechRepublic.

CyberArk explains how this new technology could bring cyber risks to citizens and governments, and what can be done to prepare. Having the right control over user identity will be key in managing the billions of IoT devices connected on 5G networks.

The potential of 5G 

5G brings faster speeds and less lag for internet connections. Citizens will enjoy more immersive digital experiences, for example with augmented reality, due to the near-instantaneous connection speeds.

5G is already being used in the education sector. The Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education in South Korea is using 5G to provide interactive remote classrooms for 200,000 students, Dan Bieler, Principal Analyst at Forrester, wrote.

Wider access to 5G will also allow remote regions to stay connected. Health authorities are looking into 5G-enabled robots that can perform surgeries in rural communities while doctors control it remotely, Bieler continued.

The technology is also expected to boost business. Small firms will be able to incorporate more digital services, while larger companies will benefit from more seamless logistics and better connections for remote employees, wrote M1.

The gaps in cybersecurity

When combined with IoT, 5G could bring a new wave of connected devices that have faster and more stable connections. But for all its benefits, the widespread adoption of 5G also brings cyber risks.

Every IoT device has its own unique identity that gives that system particular access powers. Each one presents a potential opening for hackers to exploit.

Earlier this year, camera security firm Verkada had its systems breached. Hackers managed to access the organisation’s servers by exploiting 150,000 surveillance cameras connected through IoT.

To help organisations prepare for the cyberthreats that will come with 5G, US government bodies including the National Security Agency pointed out two vulnerable areas to pay attention to.

Firstly, the supply chain of 5G needs to be protected. With many businesses rushing to build 5G technology, a compromised system in the supply chain could have a dangerous ripple effect across many devices.

For example, governments that purchase compromised 5G systems for their digital infrastructure could see systems held by ransomware or have their data stolen.

Citizens could see their home routers and smartphones compromised as well.

The second area that needs greater protection is the technologies that accompany 5G, such as software that sits in the cloud. Edge computing, which enables remote data processing with an IoT device, is also vulnerable.

Keeping identity secure in the 5G revolution 

Adopting an identity security system will help reduce the vulnerabilities that come with 5G adoption.

This system ensures security by only giving users the access which they need to accomplish their intended task. This reduces the number of superusers with unnecessarily broad access, who are valuable targets for hackers.

CyberArk systems are specially designed to integrate into government systems, meaning less technical issues when they are initially installed.

Governments can also look to continuously assess and improve the security of citizen-facing services by monitoring activities across the digital supply chain. CyberArk’s threat monitoring and anomaly detection technology allows security teams to do this in real time.

Innovations like 5G should be a source of excitement, not worry. Techniques such as identity management could put public officials’ minds at rest about using them to serve citizens better.