What is 5G?Remember when 4G promised to revolutionize data-based communication across the globe? That was so 2010. The “G,” of course, stands for “generation” — meaning that 5G is the next generation of wireless mobile communications technology after 4G. And generations, in this case, move much more quickly than in human terms. A quick review of the evolution of wireless communication reveals that the advent of 1G in the late 1970s marked the beginning of cellphone technology; so people born prior to that have gone from a 0G world to 4G, and now 5G. Each generation has been marked by technological advancements that allow greater data transmission speeds. But, as technology website CNET explains, “5G networks will bring us much more than a simple bandwidth or ‘speed’ improvement on phones: Critical improvements like low latency, intelligent power consumption, high device density and network slicing make it a breakthrough.”
How Does 5G Work?“Like other cellular networks, 5G networks use a system of cell sites that divide their territory into sectors and send encoded data through radio waves,” according to PCmag.com. The fifth generation of wireless internet technology will rely on hundreds of thousands of these “small cell” transmitters, which consume less power but cover smaller areas than 4G towers. “The size and number of the small cells which power 5G also means that they will be placed anywhere in streets and buildings,” according to Forbes.com, marking “the biggest shift in telecommunications since the invention of the cellphone.” For more details on how it all works, HackerNoon.com offers helpful explanations in “5 quick things to know about 5G.”
How Fast is 5G?5G is sometimes described as 100 times faster than 4G. Or, depending upon what type of application you’re talking about, 10 times faster. Or 1,000 times faster. Why is enhanced speed such a game-changer? Faster data transmission and greater bandwidth obviously has far more important applications than consuming media, playing online games and exchanging work documents and files online. In the medical world, for example, it can accelerate caregivers’ ability to deliver services like “physician-to-physician consultations, at-home monitoring and video-based telemedicine,” according to ModernHealthcare.com. Another example involves self-driving cars, which rely on a continuous stream of data to operate. “The quicker that information is delivered to autonomous vehicles, the better and safer they can run,” according to a CNBC video. The CNBC report forecasts 5G becoming the essential “the connective tissue for the Internet of Things” — enabling the worldwide network of internet-connected devices to “grow three-fold by 2025, linking and controlling not just robots, but medical devices, industrial equipment and agricultural machinery.”
The Pros and Cons of 5GAlong with the many positive benefits of 5G technology detailed above comes a lengthy list of concerns, from the individual and personal to the national and global.
- Could malicious hackers use the speed of 5G to more easily infiltrate people’s personal devices, home security systems, self-driving cars, pacemakers?
- Could enemies use it to bring down essential infrastructure like communications systems or power grids?
- Is China, as some observers believe, ahead of America in terms of being the dominant player in 5G technology?
- And what about public health concerns involving unanswered questions about possible exposure to radiation emitted by the so-called “small cells” that help move the data at lightning speeds?
- The Terrifying Potential of the 5G Network | The New Yorker
- 5G Networks Can Change The Way We Live: For Better or Worse? | HackerNoon.com
- New 5G Security Threat Sparks Snooping Fears | Forbes.com
What Does 5G Mean for Cybersecurity Professionals?The future of wireless technology holds the promise of total connectivity. But it will also be especially susceptible to cyberattacks and surveillance. That’s the premise of an in-depth review of the “terrifying potential” of 5G published in The New Yorker. The article cites estimates that “5G will pump $12 trillion into the global economy by 2035, and add 22 million new jobs in the United States alone,” while ushering in “a fourth industrial revolution.” However, “A totally connected world will also be especially susceptible to cyberattacks. Even before the introduction of 5G networks, hackers have breached the control center of a municipal dam system, stopped an Internet-connected car as it travelled down an interstate, and sabotaged home appliances. Ransomware, malware, crypto-jacking, identity theft, and data breaches have become so common that more Americans are afraid of cybercrime than they are of becoming a victim of violent crime.” Industry watchdogs warn that 5G has the potential to worsen existing threats and introduce new ones. For example, the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization, has identified five ways in which 5G networks are more vulnerable to cyberattacks than their predecessors in a report titled: “Why 5G Requires New Approaches to Cybersecurity.”
- The network moves away from centralized, hardware-based switching to distributed, software-defined digital routing, removing the potential to utilize “hardware choke points where cyber hygiene could be practiced.”
- “5G further complicates its cyber vulnerability by virtualizing in software higher-level network functions formerly performed by physical appliances,” a move that increases reliance on “standardized building block protocols and systems [that] have proven to be valuable tools for those seeking to do ill.”
- “Even if it were possible to lock down the software vulnerabilities within the network, the network is also being managed by software — often early generation artificial intelligence — that itself can be vulnerable. An attacker that gains control of the software managing the networks can also control the network.”
- The dramatic expansion of bandwidth creates additional avenues of attack, as the “small-cell antennas deployed throughout urban areas become new hard targets.”
- New vulnerabilities are created by connecting tens of billions more hackable smart devices to the Internet of Things — “from public safety things, to battlefield things, to medical things, to transportation things — all of which are both wonderful and uniquely vulnerable.”