With the well-published arrivals of 5G-ready devices like Apple’s iPhone 12 models, more and more people are waking up to the benefits of this new generation in mobile connectivity. Especially appealing to businesses is the supposedly improved security that 5G enables – but does the technology quite live up to this particular promise?
As you would probably expect, there isn’t quite a clear-cut answer. The signs are generally positive – but, as you will see, the security of 5G can very much depend on how your company uses it.
A seemingly bumpy road ahead for the 5G rollout
According to a research report mentioned by TechRepublic, “standalone 5G is more secure than any previous network generation”. It’s unsurprising, then, that – in the same research – almost 58% of surveyed organizations have taken up 5G in a bid to stay competitive.
Nonetheless, fewer than 10% of survey respondents deemed their security posture fully prepared for the 5G rollout. “The move to 5G is highly influenced by the business, which means that business and IT leaders need to collaborate on 5G strategies and implementation,” the research report explains.
What documented security benefits can 5G bring?
“5G has really good promise for security,” research scientist Ravishankar Borgaonkar of the Norwegian tech analysis company SINTEF Digital enthuses as quoted by WIRED. Indeed, 5G encrypts more data than its predecessors 3G and 4G, thereby leaving less data flying around where it can potentially be seen in the open and consequently used to monitor and exploit individual device connections.
With 5G, operators will also be able to engage in what is known as “network slicing”, where the system is segmented into numerous virtual networks ready to be managed and customized separately. As a result, different “slices” could be tailored in their security to suit different types of devices.
Borgaonkar has called 5G’s approach to encryption “a really good thing” and hailed network slicing as “a network paradigm shift”. However, he warns that there remain “other ways that users can be tracked and there are questions about how to guarantee the trustworthiness of the [5G] software.”
Does it matter if your firm doesn’t yet fully trust 5G?
The challenge of trusting 5G could help to explain why many companies surveyed as part of the earlier-mentioned research are drawn to the idea of using a Zero Trust solution alongside 5G. Of the surveyed organizations, 31% have finished implementing this type of solution, while another 35% were in the process of doing so and 27% were researching the possibility of following suit.
Zero Trust works on the principle that not every device connected to an enterprise network can be assumed to be safe. Therefore, it makes sense that many businesses only now dipping their toes into the 5G waters might be interested in enacting a Zero Trust system like that available from Wandera.
This approach could imbue members of your workforce with valuable peace of mind while they wait for various security wrinkles of the – otherwise very exciting – 5G technology to be ironed out.