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5G in 2019: Are We There Yet and Will It Be Secure?

Tuesday Jan 29th 2019 by Sue Marquette Poremba

5G will likely be a powerful asset to business operations, but is your security going to be able to keep up with it?

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about 5G as we approached 2019. It certainly had a lot of buzz at CES this month, as CNN reported we should see the first 5G smartphones on the market by the end of the year, ready to connect as 5G comes online in 2020. A Forbes article added that we can expect 60 million devices with 5G by 2020, with 2019 focusing on “future-proofing devices to ensure they’ll work with the technology.”

Despite the bold predictions and general excitement from CES’s vendors, the actual rollout will likely be slow, beginning first in large metropolitan areas before spreading out nationally and globally, as Sascha Giese with SolarWinds explained in email commentary:

Low frequency will be deployed first, but there will be a time delay, similar to when we all bought phones with LTE capabilities years before the benefits were fully available. In the year ahead, we predict there will be a growing awareness that while 5G innovation exists, the infrastructure will need significant time and investments to catch up.

That slow rollout may not be a bad thing, because just as sure as 5G is coming, so is a new level of security worries. As Laurence Pitt, global security strategy director with Juniper Networks, pointed out in an email statement, 5G will make our connections faster and easier . . . for hackers to break in, adding:

Regardless of the purpose of the device, any device connected to 5G has the potential to become a target for hackers – even if it runs on a secured 5G network, it is still a wireless device and therefore available as a target for a breach. The growth of 5G means that the industry needs to be considering how to have an effective security posture and a solid foundation of security before these new networks are deployed.

5G will likely be a powerful asset to business operations, but is your security going to be able to keep up with it? As James Willett, vice president of Technology at Neustar, said to me in an email, in tandem with the advent of 5G is the rise of IoT within the workforce. We need to expect to see new threats targeting both of these technologies. It isn’t enough to add the new technologies, but your employees need to be prepared to recognize and address security threats. 5G could be such a game changer on the security front – and not in a good way – that Willett added:

… even an organization that “does everything right” to combat threats posed by 5G could still be impacted just as easily as those that are less security savvy.

5G and its impact will definitely be high on any list for 2020 security predictions, but talking about it in 2019, with predictions of 5G devices on the way, gives organizations the opportunity to be ahead of the game and addressing security now, rather than after the hack.

Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba

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