5G Changes Everything, But Not How You Think

First, Reality Check

There is a lot of hype around 5G these days. Super Bowl sponsors, Verizon and AT&T made a big deal about how 5G was changing the way people experienced the game. Note, however, that while there are some 5G sites in Miami, Florida near the stadium, the networks consist mostly derivatives of 5G Plus, 5GE, WiFi and 4G LTE.

That said, 5G is coming and will likely be fairly widely deployed throughout 2021. However, managers of corporate networks should start thinking about 5G challenges to network security and data privacy.

Speed, Scale and Efficiency

5G will offer 100G speeds, <1ms latency and much lower power draw in the cell sites as well as longer battery life for connected IoT devices. These technological changes will enable an explosion of IoT connected devices to be accessed from anywhere at any time. There are many industrial applications being developed around manufacturing robotics and medical devices. The consumer applications are too numerous to mention. Without the tether of wired control, remote apps are being developed for automobiles, refrigerators, lights, music, entertainment and more. Two major issues need to be addressed as a result of the proliferation of IoT devices…security and privacy.

Big Data Getting Bigger

As more devices connect to the internet the amount of personal data being collected will increase accordingly. Refrigerators can read bar codes and alert consumers when they are getting low on certain groceries. GPS devices in smartphones are tracking location and movements of users and providing sales incentives in real time. Pharmacies are automatically refilling prescriptions electronically filed by doctors. All this technology provides convenience, but what is cost to personal privacy?

These pharmacies, grocery stores, and cell service providers are collecting personal information on consumers like never before. Beyond using this information for their own marketing purposes, they are selling it to other companies who are interested in consumer trends, movements and potential markets. 5G services will increase the number of connected devices and, thus the amount of personal information being collected. From a personal perspective, this trend may or may not be of concern. From a business perspective, the trend of everything being 5G internet connected coupled with BYOD means there will be many new pathways for hackers into the corporate network.

Protecting Proprietary Information

The corporate IT department may enforce strict security standards on BYOD smartphones, tablets and laptops such as strong passwords and requirements to change passwords at regular intervals. However, other personal connected devices may unwittingly become a backdoor to the company network. The Target breach was initiated from an internet connected HVAC system that was unprotected. That breach, according to Target, cost the company about $200 Million dollars.