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It’s hard not to say that 5G technology brings a lot of benefits. 5G entails faster download speeds, and yes, if you have a 5G-enabled handset, you could hear and appreciate the speed increases for videos, gaming, etc. However, 5G provides added benefits that go way above those for the everyday user.

Let’s take a look at the high speed and low latency of 5G. There are a lot of areas or industries that require pinpoint accuracy and precision. Among them is the medical industry and its ongoing research to enable doctors to perform surgeries remotely, without the need to have them on site.

Imagine how many lives could be saved if a doctor sitting in one country was able to log in and perform life-saving surgery via the internet in another country.

The benefits are huge but the risks are too. Imagine if the internet started buffering during one of these remote surgeries. Even just a few seconds could mean the difference between life or death. The speed and stability of 5G technology would eradicate these concerns.

Automated cars provide us with another example. In order to realize the goal of self-driving cars, innovative car manufacturers are designing their autonomous models to rely heavily on location data. GPS coordinates are a good start, but it’s imperative that these and other location data points be sent and received to the controlling servers in as close to real time as possible.

As 5G is able to send and receive larger data files quickly, more data can be transmitted which can include additional information on location, such as waypoints, street markings, etc. When combined with GPS co-ordinates, 5G technology will increase location accuracy and response times while reducing the risk of an accident and potential loss of life.

The Elephant in the Room

Given the potential applications described above, it’s reasonable to assume that everyone must be jumping at the chance to use 5G technology regardless of where it comes from. Right?

Not quite. It has been widely reported that the United Kingdom has decided to embrace 5G technology and implement it with technology that has been developed in other countries. Some countries (most notably the United States) have chosen not to embrace the technology developed by companies in particular countries.

The reasons for making these decisions abound, but some countries have acted out of the concern that security weaknesses or backdoor access could potentially sit within these technologies, thus providing access to multiple environments such as critical national infrastructure.

This brings me to the main point of my blog: all technology has potential risks, but it’s how we mitigate the risks that make the difference. I understand the concern that there could be catastrophic consequences should someone, such as a hostile nation, get access to national infrastructure through a backdoor in the technology that they have designed and sold.

My question is this: how would they get access if you place the technology correctly behind your security defences?

Rather than worrying about the technology itself, dive into your security infrastructure and make sure that the technology is not accessible to anyone on the outside. Adopting good network segmentation protocols, installing firewalls, access controls, integrity monitoring tools, SIEM solutions etc. would help to provide you with enough data to see if any unauthorised data is being accessed or stolen.

Should the enemy get past the perimeter, using deep packet inspection tools would assist in detecting the flow of data between the 5G technology and the infrastructure itself. Tools such as Tripwire Industrial Visibility are able to detect and alert an organisation of traffic that does not constitute business as usual (anomalies to the expected behaviour), allowing someone to react to close off the threat.

Ironically, having all these tools in place would benefit from technology such as 5G, as this technology would easily be able to handle the amount of data being generated and sent to Security Operations Centres with minimal delay.

I don’t think the potential risk of the technology and loss of industry progression in the respective country is worth holding back on. If the protection of the environment where the technology sits is managed well, I believe the pros outweigh the risks. The technology could lead to a lot more industries benefitting in the long run.