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Securing Your 5G and IoT Security Connections

Written by  Sep 04, 2019

Organisations need to be cautious when it comes to the security implications of moving to 5G. 5G technology is bringing in an entirely new set of standards for global wireless communications.

As the IoT-era continues to rapidly expand, many businesses are developing IoT applications with 5G in mind for many reasons.

The greater capacity and reduced latency of 5G will enable a seamless, more efficient operational experience. Organisations from in all kinds of industries will be able to make improvements and send critical upgrades to entire networks without disrupting operations or overloading servers.

What about the implications of 5G speed. In an industrial setting, faster mission-critical communication between IoT devices will drastically improve productivity and efficiency. Globally, 5G is estimated to enable £10 trillion in economic output by 2035 with manufacturing accounting for more than £2.66 billion.

iotwebAlso see: Implementing IoT: More commercial adoption is coming

As a result, 5G will forever change the way we do industrial jobs. Doing maintenance on a wind farm will include a handheld device with data and insights from sensors on turbines, blades and weather systems. In transportation and storage, remotely networked, autonomous vehicles will drive themselves across countries. This may seem a little far-fteched at the moment, but this is the future of 5G's capabilities.

5G will also have significant implications for connected healthcare networks. 5G speeds will enable data to be transmitted in real-time, paving the way for techniques such as remote surgery. It will also help healthcare organisations track and monitor connected medical devices, manage and analyse patient data from wearable IoT, and allow remote doctors to provide quick and accurate test analysis for patients all around the world.

But it's not without significant risk — if an IoT device has been compromised an expanded 5G network creates a greater and more complex attack surface. Thus, as businesses prepare for the transition to 5G they must also be wary of the security implications, which can't be mitigated in advance.

iotlockAlso see: IoT device manufacturers need do more to protect users from being hacked

5G and IoT: A New Security Paradigm

Huge bandwidth increases, the rapid expansion of edge computing and countless new IoT devices introduce risk despite their intended benefit. In a 5G network, any device can become the vulnerable weak link in the security chain and be exposed to possible cyber attacks, which could be disastrous (imagine medical equipment failing).

This is because 5G, by virtue of its architecture, can expose sensitive data as it traverses the network and open the door for devices to be controlled by unscrupulous individuals, who want to gain control or just cause disruption. Unlike traditional telecom networks where sensitive functions happen at the core, 5G blurs the distinction between the core and the edge. Devices at the edge will likely have to collect and analyse data or act without returning to the core of the network to deliver the best service. Malicious actors will be motivated too, as targets can range from businesses to healthcare, which will hold mountains of personal identifiable information with the increased use of smart devices.

Due to the continued lack of security designed into IoT devices and inherent risk in 5G networks, organisations leveraging 5G will have to consider cross-layer approach to security that accounts for the need of different security methods across technologies being used including applications and IoT devices. Additionally, end-to-end security will be critical in protecting communication paths between devices, users and the core network. DNS intelligence will be important as more devices will be connected to the internet or the cloud.

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Fortunately, IoT device manufacturers are beginning to consider security in the design process, which has been largely an afterthought until now. Organisations that are planning to use 5G and IoT need to be proactive about protecting their IoT devices and networks right now, don't rely on the manufacturers full support. It’s up to you to ensure that IoT devices are accounted for in asset management, security monitoring and incident response systems.

It will be critical to have secure communication and fast action when things go wrong.  But, the risk can be far outweighed by the benefits.

Carl Perkins

A security tech expert, Carl specialises in IT Security having worked in the field for over 10 years and has previous Tech admin roles to his credit. He is very experienced and his contribution is invaluable to us.

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