How Secure is 5G?

5G technology promises more significant channels, lower latency, more connectivity, and better security.  Of these promises, better security is the most hotly contested. For many in the cybersecurity world, 5G’s vulnerabilities are not less menacing; they are just different. One thing is for sure — if a 5G network is breached, the amount of data that can be extracted will increase given the faster speeds of a 5G network.

How can Wi-Fi Compete With 5G? Having faster access from your phone will make residential Wi-Fi disappear? Find all the answers in out blog post 5G, the New Challenge for Wi-Fi

Stingray Concerns

Most cybersecurity experts express a general concern over the number of things that will connect to a 5G network. Every device is a potential access point for unauthorized use. If vulnerabilities are not addressed before its wide-spread deployment, the result will be chaos as providers scramble to find ways to fix the problems. 

Two university groups reportedly found three vulnerabilities. According to TechCrunch, Syed Rafiu Hussain, along with Ninghui Li and Elisa Bertino at Purdue University, and Mitziu Echeverria and Omar Chowdhury at the University of Iowa discovered the flaws.

One flaw named Torpedo exploits a weakness in the paging protocol. Carriers use the protocol to notify a phone of an upcoming call or text. Making several phone calls and quickly canceling triggers a paging message without alerting the phone of the incoming call. With access to the phone, anyone can track a target’s location. Knowing the paging enables an unauthorized person to hijack the channel and inject or deny messages. They could insert alerts or block messages from receiving the target’s phone.

Torpedo opens the door to two other possible attacks:

  • Piercer allows an attacker to determine the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) numbers.
  • IMSI-Cracking attack can, through brute force, acquired an IMSI number in both 4G and 5G networks, where IMSI numbers are encrypted.

These flaws, known as stingrays, allow law enforcement and others to identify a person’s real-time location and log all phones within its range.

IoT Concerns

The sheer number of devices connecting to 5G networks increases the chance of a cyberattack. Recent research estimates that the number of internet-connected items will grow from 14.2bn to 25bn by 2021. Not all IoT devices have built-in security and those that do depend on the end-user to set up the device correctly. All it takes is a hacker finding a device with weak security, and they can create havoc. What are the odds a hacker will find a device that still uses the default passwords? 

What damage can hacking IoT devices do?  Remember the Mirai Botnet attack of 2016. Hackers weaponized the IoT devices they controlled and used “distributed denial of service” (DDOS) to overwhelm a network or website with more messages than it could handle, effectively making the network or website inaccessible.

This 2016 attack was accomplished with small, innocuous IoT devices like home routers, air-quality monitors, and personal surveillance cameras. It is estimated that at its peak, Mirai compromised over 600,000 devices. The IoT devices are of primary concern for all networks, not just 5G. Some experts suggest that large-scale DDOS attacks could take down a mobile network.

5G Security

Although 5G technology promises improvements that will lead to more technological advances, with more significant channels and lower latency, who knows what might pass through mobile networks. At the same time, 5G security concerns must be taken seriously and addressed as quickly as possible to cut the risk of a catastrophic cyberattack. 

Leaders within the industry take the identified security vulnerabilities seriously and are working to address them as they are reported. Progress on the IoT front is not as coordinated with no clear standard emerging for internet-connected devices.

How can Wi-Fi Compete With 5G? Having faster access from your phone will make residential Wi-Fi disappear? Find all the answers in out blog post 5G, the New Challenge for Wi-Fi

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