5G, the fifth generation mobile network, is expected to deliver faster and more responsive service. It will open the door to autonomous vehicles, by enabling steering capabilities, and create smart cities. However the dangers of 5G, besides the risk of expecting too much too soon, involve greater cybersecurity threats.

Smart cities, where cars, energy provision and healthcare rely on 5G could succumb to attacks on the network with serious effects.

“5G will support a massive number of connected devices and deliver a huge increase of bandwidth, and with that, it will open even more doors so bad actors and accidental insiders can work faster and export more data in less time,” says Simon Sharp, vice president international at ObserveIT.

“As such, it’s essential to remember that it is individual users that will still be behind each and every new device and use, and it will also be individuals – employees or trusted contractors – that will be tasked with securing the massive amounts of new data collected.

“As far as predictions go, speed will inevitably cause a spike in accidental insider threats but the poor account security practices we already see today, from weak or re-used passwords to open sharing settings, will also continue to cause problems.”

Does 5G create security risks?

Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, says 5G will threaten existing techniques for tracking criminals, in terms of locating users and GDPR. Underlying virtualisation technology needed to provide for the complexity and bandwidth of 5G makes it much harder to identify and locate individual users. 5G only provides temporary identification, while in comparison 4G technology gives each user a unique identifier.

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Jeremy Boorer, head of EMEA at Sectigo, says: “5G mobile networks are on the horizon and this is exciting, but it’s important to keep in mind that these new networks will bring with them a host of new security concerns.

“5G will spur further growth of internet-connected devices – Ericsson already estimates that there could be 3.5 billion Internet of Things-enabled devices by 2023, providing would-be intruders with new endpoints to attack.”

But he adds: “Security for 5G is still evolving with the standard.”

Expecting too much too soon?

Alastair Hartrup, global chief executive officer of Network Critical, believes 5G is on the way but won’t make it this year.

“5G was a hot topic last year. Many service providers across the world began running trials to test the network and there was confidence that 2019 would be the year that 5G enters the public on a wider scale,” he says.

“Unfortunately, this seems unlikely to be the case. Reports highlight that early testing from major service providers has shown that the technology is an advanced version of 4G as opposed to the next iteration of mobile networks.

“Ultimately, those waiting for the 5G revolution this year need to cast their minds back to the initial introduction of 4G. Once 4G was public, service providers were still utilising 3G as its de facto network and upgrading still took time. The same will most likely happen here.

“Even if 5G manages to go live at the tail-end of the year, it will be very limited and not close to the wide adoption that many are hoping for. It would also be very consumer focused. Traditionally, enterprise technology adoption has always been a few years behind the consumer, so it makes the idea of enterprise 5G near-impossible.”

5G: “It’s destined to live up to expectations”

Rob Baillie, mobile expert at www.comparemymobile.com highlights the issues surrounding the initial rollout of 5G.

“The hype around 5G has been extraordinary and there is a risk that consumers will expect the rollout to be as quick and smooth as 4G when actually the service is destined to be a slow burn,” he says.

“The need to build brand new masts and infrastructure means providers will concentrate on areas that will see the most immediate benefit: built-up areas and big cities, and leave already connectively taxed regions languishing on low speeds. Also, little is known on how providers will choose to price their 5G compatible devices or the contracts associated with them. I

“t will be tempting to opt for one at next upgrade to make sure you’re ready to reap the benefits, but how quickly you will be able to access it depends on a host of factors, so there is potential for frustration and disappointment for anyone investing too soon.”

But Baillie remains optimistic about 5G capabilities when it does arrive.

“There is absolutely no doubt that when it is widely available, it’s destined to live up to expectations – and maybe even provide a challenger to traditional broadband.”

With Huawei confident it will lead in the 5G market, the world’s first 5G phone call made in China and 5G smartphones promised for release in 2019, the future seems bright for 5G.

But experts are balancing the progress in 5G tech with a healthy amount of caution so that when it arrives we’re prepared for the dangers as well as the benefits.