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How to balance cybersecurity and user needs in the 5G era


The global deployment of 5G networks is faster than ever, raising concerns about data safety as connectivity spreads to remote areas and more industries. But protection cannot curb innovation

The newest generation of wireless connectivity, 5G, has been adopted by numerous countries at a rate significantly faster than previous generations of wireless technology. While 5G is still in its infancy after three years, global deployment of 5G networks entered a rapid growth period in 2022, new evidence shows. According to the latest report by the GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Association), 92 countries and territories had launched 5G services as of November 2022, up from just 38 two years ago. 


This fast pace of global 5G adoption has analysts forecasting that connections will top 1.2 billion by the end of 2022, only three-and-a-half years after its introduction. In comparison, it took 12 years for 3G to reach one billion users worldwide and four whole years for 4G, which was introduced in 2010. GSA reports that 155 of the world’s 195 countries and territories have launched, begun deploying, or invested in 5G networks.



For most users, connections between devices will be at least 10 times faster with the help of 5G and have much lower latency—meaning there is virtually no delay between a request and a response over a network. But what about industries and the overall economy?


5G’s impact on businesses 


For businesses, 5G is about more than just mobile speeds. New levels of connection will amplify the impact of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Moreover, industries like healthcare, agriculture, and logistics will get transformative benefits. This is a consequence of the three 5G spectrum layers —frequency bands— 5G employs: low-, mid-, and high-bandwidth. 

  • Low-bandwidth offers lower speed rates than mid- or high-bands (even still, they will be higher than 4G) but broad wireless connectivity. It requires fewer cell towers, so this level of connection is more appropriate for rural areas and will boost, for example, precision agriculture. Through 5G, farm equipment will work along with ultra-reliable GPS systems, AI, and real-time data collection.

  • Mid-bandwidth provides improved connectivity speeds at close range. This is ideal for most electronics that enterprise workers use daily. It also enables countless IoT devices to rely on 5G without overwhelming a company’s infrastructure. Additionally, mid-bands will positively impact manufacturing industries, where workers must perform multiple online tasks for long periods.

  • High-bandwidth offers ultra-fast communication, eventually up to 10 gigabits per second, with extremely low latency. This feature will be revolutionary in sectors such as healthcare (allowing remote procedures to work similarly to in-person ones) and logistics (enabling real-time communication to self-driving vehicles on roads). 


However, the diversification and the growth of connections introduce new cybersecurity challenges—primarily for companies that didn’t have to worry about data safety and protection before the 5G era. Here are some examples of the risks involved:


Increased attack surface

The significant increase in connected devices under 5G enables many more potential attacks. The risk of more sophisticated botnets, privacy breaches, and data extraction will also increase. A much greater amount of data will be produced and relayed quickly, which means hackers can steal crucial business information faster than ever. 


IoT vulnerabilities

IoT devices are already transforming many industries and will be increasingly deployed in monitoring facility conditions, remote tracking of equipment operations via sensors, and supply chain management, to mention a few applications. But security is often not built-in by design on these devices, so the mass adoption of IoT through 5G technology represents a potential rise in cyber-attacks.


Insufficiency of manual operations 

For previous generations, manual interventions to mitigate threats might work. In the 5G era, data volume, speed, and sophistication will make it virtually impossible for manual operations to cope with the task. As companies can automate many crucial processes, they should also automate security.


Transition risks

As companies adapting 5G install new equipment, it will take time for them to set it up. This can result in security breaches due to unauthorized access to a device, network, program, or data. Vulnerabilities in previous networks will carry over to 5G networks while the transition period runs, so every organization implementing 5G needs to monitor “blind spots.” 


Improving cybersecurity while fostering innovation 

5G technology doesn’t essentially change what businesses must do to safeguard their digital assets, but it implies strengthened network security. To avoid financial loss or damages to business and reputation, companies will have to take proactive steps now to protect themselves in the future. As the number of connections is expected to increase exponentially thanks to 5G, it is essential to prepare the tech infrastructure of companies with important features, such as:

  • Privileged access management, for managing, monitoring, and restricting access to privileged identities, such as administrative accounts, third-party access, temporary service providers, etc.

  • Multifactor authentication and risk-based authentication, which provide solutions like digital certificates, biometrics, and integration to existing applications.

  • Resilient API design, which means safely using application programming interfaces, or APIs, to integrate existing data to new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, or new interfaces, such as voice.


2Future portfolio company Qriar, provides specialized services like those described above focused on developing, integrating, implementing, and customizing cybersecurity solutions. With 5G, new business models will appear, and every technological paradigm shift requires a review of cybersecurity policies. But securing remote access for users on different digital channels cannot set aside the convenience and ease of access. Instead, secure access should be simplified, contributing to business success. 


Having that in mind, Qriar looks at the rise of 5G as an opportunity to promote safety alongside innovation. New products and services don’t always come along with cybersecurity, but data protection cannot curb innovative thinking. Passwordless authentication, for example, tends to grow in use and popularity as a means of verifying a user’s identity. Instead of a password, passwordless methods use more secure and practical alternatives like a registered smartphone, biometrics, or a one-time passcode sent by the system via email. 


Beyond the implications for cybersecurity, the revolution of connectivity provided by 5G also impacts the user experience. In an increasingly connected world, it is necessary to achieve the desired security levels and to balance protection and the operational flow, ensuring the satisfaction of companies and people for whom new technologies must work. 


And as the 5G era matures, we must look further into the future. The next generational network connection, 6G, is already under development. Analysts believe the new technology will be launched by the end of 2030. 6G networks will be 100 times faster than 5G, thereby opening up space for interconnections between biology and artificial intelligence (AI). According to Japanese phone operator NTT Docomo, 6G will make it “possible for cyberspace to support human thought and action in real-time through wearable devices and micro-devices mounted on the human body.”


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