From China to Europe, and now, pockets of the US, 5G is proving to be the future of connectivity. This next generation of wireless promises 30 percent more speed than 4G — speed that will be able to boost capacity by four times over current systems. But what does this increased connectivity mean for security? With more devices vying to access the power of 5G, the potential for hacks and data breaches may increase in ways the US is unprepared for.
What is 5G?
Before we can break down just what makes 5G more hackable than its predecessors, it’s helpful to know what it is and what differentiates it from 3G or 4G LTE. It’s easy to think of 5G as a faster 4G, but in reality, it’s a whole different platform. In addition to speeding up your mobile experience, 5G’s performance and efficiency will be able to be used across industries to support a variety of devices. Overall, the high bandwidth, low latency and low-power-low-cost of 5G make it the future of wireless tech, like streaming, virtual reality and smart medicine.
Why has it been slow to roll out in the US?
If you haven’t heard about 5G in the US, it’s not because it isn’t here. All four major US carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) offer 5G in some areas, but what they offer is nowhere near 5G’s true capabilities — and that’s thanks to the American government. Currently, no American company makes the tech needed to transmit its high-speed wireless signal, and the spectrum we do have to make a successful network is reserved for the military, not for commercial communication. What’s leftover for mobile carriers in the US is a slower-to-implement and more expensive 5G option when compared to China or Europe. And according to Allconnect, the U.S. currently ranks 33rd globally for mobile download speed — right between Serbia and Trinidad and Tobago. That’s actually a significant step up from a year ago, when the U.S. had the 38th fastest speeds with just 35 Mbps.
What is China’s role in 5G in the US?
Huawei, based in China, is the telecommunications company at the forefront of 5G. With control over key tech components and relationships with the country’s three state-run telecom companies, Huawei puts China ahead of the rest of the world. China is now in the position of becoming the world’s next great tech leader, making billions of dollars from 5G related business alone. Obviously, the US isn’t happy about this. Global trade and relations between China, the US and Europe have been impacted by the struggle for dominance and control of 5G.
What does 5G mean for cybersecurity?
In some ways, 5G is more secure than any of its predecessors. It encrypts more data, so there is less available to be intercepted. It’s more software and cloud-based than 4G, allowing for better monitoring. It can also be “sliced” so that different devices can access different networks and have network-specific protections.
In other ways, it’s less secure. Because of the potential to connect to more devices, there is a larger attack surface. With the increase in connectivity, there will also be a need to authenticate a larger number of devices. It also doesn’t help that the country leading 5G development has a history of alleged hacks and data breaches. Huawei, the leader in 5G tech, is believed to have backdoor access to global mobile networks through its technology.
The future of cybersecurity could change with 5G’s rise. When that happens, we’ll be ready. Bluefin’s holistic payment security strategy includes tokenization and point-to-point encryption (P2PE), to protect payment and PII/PHI data. If a breach does occur, hackers get nothing. Learn more about our security products or contact us today.