How 5G provides new opportunities to improve mobile device security

January 3rd, 2020
How 5G provides new opportunities to improve mobile device security

The rollout of 5G is set to become one of the biggest technology shakeups of the past decade. Promising bandwidth and latency on par with fiber optic broadband, albeit wirelessly, we can expect it to lead to an exponential increase in the rise of internet-connected smart devices, or the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

But while there’s no doubting the benefits of greater connectivity in the business world, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that every new device added to the network is another potential entry point for malicious actors to exploit. In other words, in spite of the opportunities, the proliferation of 5G will also lead to a rapid expansion of the attack surface, which has already outgrown many businesses’ capability to keep up.

New technology implements security and privacy by design

While many of us have been craving faster and more reliable mobile data networks for some time, it will be a few years before 5G achieves widespread availability, particularly outside big urban centers.

But this is actually a good thing, because it gives telecom networks plenty of time to test and implement necessary data privacy and safety protocols. Considering the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), 5G security is clearly a top priority.

In fact, security and privacy are crucial for those developing the new technology, not least because they’re among the most highly scrutinized organizations of all.

Greater bandwidth equals greater security

Although 4G networks already provide reasonably robust security, they were never built with the unprecedented adoption of IoT devices in mind. As such, telecoms networks have typically sent the same types of updates to every device with a SIM card, which, as we all know, doesn’t include just cellphones anymore.

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The problem with IoT devices is that they come in so many different forms with different firmware, operating systems, and hardware specifications. Trying to push the same updates to these devices as one would to a smartphone can consume too much power and bandwidth, potentially compromising security. But, with the high bandwidth and low latency of 5G networks, providers will be better equipped to identify different devices and push individual security updates and functions to each one, tailored to specific needs.

Improved reliability can boost encryption

5G can potentially improve the effectiveness of encryption algorithms for data as it travels through mobile networks, particularly when smartphone users move from one network to another. Currently, smartphone users have unique information pertaining to them stored in an international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI), which is in turn stored on the SIM card in the device. This serves as a key that authenticates the device every time it is accessed. 5G networks use a key embedded in the SIM card, which encrypts the IMSI data before sending it between networks.

How will eSIM technology help?

5G will accompany the adoption of embedded SIM (eSIM) technology, which will eliminate the need for installing a physical SIM card in the device. The removable nature of a SIM card is a potential risk, which makes it very easy for a thief to strip the device of its old connectivity profiles by discarding and replacing the old SIM.

Since that won’t be possible, or at least certainly not economical in the case of eSIM, reselling lost or stolen devices will no longer be possible. It will also make it easier to recover them, since eSIM-enabled devices will become trackable by their owners the moment they’re turned on again. This will be especially useful for businesses that use a wide variety of internet-connective devices, such as connected vehicles and industrial control systems.

While neither 5G nor eSIMs are silver bullets when it comes to protecting your digital assets, they will present new opportunities to further your cybersecurity strategy.

Are you ready to shift your IT into high gear? Call Cyber Shift Technologies today to request your free consultation.

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