5G Offers Wireless Carriers More Security, Privacy Options

One of the benefits of 5G, expected to be 100 times faster than 4G networks, is the improved protection of sensitive data. Much of the conversation about 5G networks has focused on the security issues related to Chinese vendors of gear used in 5G networks. But Verizon chief information officer Chandra McMahon noted that “security is designed into 5G and there will be additional [security] technical features.” Another advantage is that 5G providers will rely on the cloud, providing more capacity and flexibility.

The Wall Street Journal notes that 5G also offers security and privacy via network slicing, “a network architecture that enables multiple, isolated virtual networks on the same physical infrastructure.” That enables a reduced “ease of access” to the network as well as the application of “specific security tools and policies to different slices.” Privacy is aided by the fact that “information related to each segment isn’t shared among the other slices.”

Further, said Lenovo Group chief information officer Jason Ruger, “cyberattacks affect only the slice being targeted and are therefore easier to contain.” “If there’s a distributed denial-of-service attack or a computer worm affecting one slice of the network, the other slices aren’t exposed,” he said.

With regard to artificial intelligence, 5G will improve the speed and “volume of data that can flow through an organization’s network.” Because security operations will be able to analyze “a huge amount of information collected by sensors and other Internet of Things devices,” companies will find it easier to “spot suspicious activity.”

AI-enabled tools will also make it easier to detect malware and, said Information Technology and Innovation Foundation director of broadband/spectrum policy Doug Brake, make “communication more trustworthy” because 5G’s radio waves are harder to intercept. “You can be confident that your signal is going where it’s going and no one is listening in,” he said.

Still, the expected explosion of Internet of Things devices will create a “vastly expanded field of potential targets for hackers.” Former FCC chair Tom Wheeler noted that “regulators and industry groups need to develop stronger rules, expectations and mandated cooperation to face such challenges.”

Elsewhere, WSJ reports that carriers are “looking to tap into the enormous computing power of the cloud … to direct in new ways the data that will flow over their 5G cellular networks.” Thus far, cloud computing has “been used only sparingly in mobile networks because integrating 4G technology with cloud technology has been challenging.” But 5G computing is more compatible with the cloud, especially by using slicing to “dedicate portions of a network to different purposes.”

Slicing will also allow carriers to offer different levels of speed and reliability to customers. WSJ notes that “the biggest cellular-service providers won’t be fully integrated with the cloud any time soon, but those companies will use the cloud as they ramp up the rollout of their 5G networks next year.”