Risks would multiply in line with the multiplication of the number of devices and their ease in hacking them.
The latest generation of mobile communications is allowing us to access multimedia content or interact with computer systems at hitherto unknown transmission speeds. However, even before its use has been consolidated, a new concept has emerged, 5G. But, really, what does this new generation of mobile communications mean?
One of the main characteristics of the new generation of 5G mobile communications will be that the speed of data transmission will be multiplied by 100.
Has anyone stopped to think about the services that could be provided at those speeds? Many applications would come to mind.
But 5G is not about just that. An aspect of enormous relevance in the evolution of the Long Term Evolution technology that has supported mobile communications in the last mobile generation has been that of latency.
With 5G, this will be noticeably reduced. For those who are not used to the concept of latency, they only have to think about how much time it takes a computer system today to respond to a request made from another system.
That is the latency, the delay between the request and the response in the communications.
Let’s think now of its possibilities.
With very low latency, we could interact with autonomous vehicles in almost real time – assuming that 1 millisecond would be acceptable for the safety of the interaction. We could interconnect with operating theaters or medical devices to carry out surgical interventions, we could synchronize our home devices to interact Instantly, and a long list of other options.
If we add to that that 5G would hardly ever suffer from interruptions, with an availability of 99.999%, or that it would have global coverage, or even that it would reduce network power consumption by 90%, some would say that this is the “panacea” of communications.
Unfortunately, all innovation always has a “but”. In the case of 5G, the issue is security. What cybersecurity mechanisms will it contemplate? Will that paradigm change?
There are many voices that have been raised in reference to how the security of this new mobile generation is being addressed. Some voices insist on the incorporation of certain measures in standards that must support it.
More than a year ago, in June 2017, the European Commission published a report in which it referred to the cybersecurity considerations that the new 5G standard should face.
Those considerations included the need for a logical architecture that would be based on the concept of virtualized networks on shared infrastructures, because 5G will be based on what has come to be called SDN and NFV, or software-based networks, which pose the paradigm of eliminating physical connections by interconnecting equipment and services through the mobile communications network.
In this scenario, cybersecurity would become a key element when evaluating the risks that a massive network connection of devices would entail without any other requirement in virtual networks.
Some studies say that the proliferation of IoT devices would be such that they could congest the network itself, even after IoT devices reached their useful life.
In a way, and establishing an analogy, this could lead to what would be known as “junk communications”, like the plastic that reaches the sea or fragments of satellites orbiting around planet Earth.
This would not be a problem of waste management but of cybersecurity.
The real problems with cybersecurity would come, according to some analysts, from the facility that cybercriminals would have to deploy networks of bots, or hacked devices, capable of attacking any system, as an army would.
In the past, these types of attacks, particularly DDoS, proved effective; the risk would now multiply, in line with the multiplication of the number of these devices and their ease in hacking them.
To all this, it would be necessary to add the exponential explosion that the transfer of data, through the communications network, would generate. Certainly, this is giving rise to a huge controversy around the management of privacy.
Some experts have already advanced that they will advocate precisely for the integration of hardware encryption technologies in the devices themselves to avoid this type of problem, however, this solution is something that the market has not yet managed to assimilate. Neither are the main leaders of the world powers helping.
Some have already been responsible for raising their reluctance. Precisely the US government has been one of the most active in doubting the Chinese manufacturers, who already use this technology to include spy chips in the production lines of both terminals and network equipment responsible for communications.
Because, effectively, to achieve all these advances, it will be necessary to deploy networks of communications equipment that will work at 3.5 GHz.
This frequency barely used more than by the world governments for defense functions and that would now be shared with millions of transmission stations and domestic and business devices for everyday use.
In spite of everything, the evolution of mobile technology is unstoppable.
In the US, tests with CBRS – equivalent to 5G – have been taking place for some time. Even some actors, who do not correspond with telecommunications operators, are beginning to experiment with pilot centers distributed around the world.
Names like Amazon and Google already appear among those interested, apart, of course, from the usual technology manufacturers such as Huawei, Qualcomm, Cisco, and many others.