With the increased commonplace of 5G technology around the country, interesting and unique challenges have come forward. The main difference to its predecessors is its much larger density of transmission towers due to its much higher frequency transmission range. This coupled with interesting network slicing abilities makes this one of the largest steps forward the technology has ever seen. In this blog post the full scope of this slowly integrated technology will be explored.
The Modus Operandi
5G technology was introduced to help sustain our ever-expanding need for bandwidth and low latency wireless communications. Through the years multiple iterations of the ‘G’ technology have been developed to further these needs.Starting with the original analogue 1G technology in the 1980s and ending on the latest 5G that was introduced in 2019.
Around every 10 years  the ‘G’ technology gets a major refresh which promises to bring more of everything; speed, security and bandwidth. For example the maximum speed of communication supported by 1G was 2.3 kbps (theoretically) and this was brought up 384 Kbps by a large leap to 2G technology. This technology implemented digital transmission protocols instead of relying on analogue to increase both efficiency and data transmission rates whilst improving stability and security by implementing lightweight encryption protocols. Fast forward to 2001  the 3rd-generation of the technology was informally introduced and promised large increases of data transfer speeds to around 6mbps alongside increased stability. 4G built on these same credentials and increased the throughput and stability to around 12.5mbps on 4G LTE in late-mid September 2011 . This was then improved with the global introduction and deployment of 5G in 2019-2021 .
Within these large technological footsteps securing these growing infrastructures has not been forgotten, encryption has been increasing with every iteration alongside the increase of abilities of the devices connected to the network.
However, with each generation of the technology, the frequency range required toserve these devices has been increased, with a slight oversimplification of this being the analogy of a “garden hose can transport water from one end to another. However, if holes are poked into that garden hose, then water will start to leak out. If enough holes are created at the beginning of the garden hose, then no water will make it to the end of that garden hose.”  This analogy serves the idea that as people require more bandwidth (water) the shorter the reach of the services becomes. To add to this we are also limited by the frequencies these services operate on. Finally to combat this issue: more transmission towers are created increasing the amount of ‘garden hoses’ to be able to provide more bandwidth to users whilst still being able to take advantage of these higher frequencies.
With the introduction of 5G this is exactly what has been happening, more towers are created which operate on a much higher frequency that unfortunately isn’t able to travel as far. However, this brings incredible increases in download speeds, with up to 20gbps being theoretically possible  and again theoretically 5G could even drop down to 1 millisecond of latency  in the future. This would make it applicable to multiple new industries that require near real time responses.
Why does this Matter
With multiple new technologies being implemented within this new generation of networking, it’s likely that they are not perfect as with any new technology. This comes with a large range of possible vectors of exploitation that will be phased out in later software/hardware iterations.
An interesting technology that is coming with 5G is the possibility of network slicing  between operators that want to utilise a 5G infrastructure to lower costs and increase profits. An analogy of this can be a multi-story building, with each floor being a separate business sharing the same foundation. As the technology heavily integrates virtualisation onto physical networks this Software Defined Networking (SDN) feature provides the possibility of multiple separate operators utilising the same hardware very differently, with unlimited customisability. This means that “varying types of 5G traffic, such as video streaming, industrial automation and mission-critical applications, all can be accommodated on the same network, yet each has its own dedicated resources and performance guarantees.” 
However this comes with possible security concerns like the ‘jumping’ between these secure layers as explored by D. Meyer of sdxcentral . The main issues surrounding this are the possibilities of hackers jumping between these ‘virtual’ layers and according to Abdul Rahman, associate VP at Deloitte, “Five minutes on Google and you can get default passwords on a lot of these vendor devices and can then basically run scripts through the infrastructure in gray spaces to be able to find and exploit what parts of this attack surface are actually misconfigured,” . These novel exploits have however never been seen in the wild according to media reports .
Another important consideration is the availability of this network to multiplespecialist hardware domains within the increasing world of the Internet of Things (IoT) and how a low latency communication protocol can benefit sensor networks in industries across the world . This however can bring its own world of potential issues as these low power devices historically are known to have poor security due to low computing overheads and a lack of easy updating . Which is a direct reason why slicing within 5G networks should be used carefully.
How to Protect Yourself
A massive positive of the network slicing ability is that ostensibly, all layers are isolated from other network slices which by design ensures; confidentiality, integrity and availability. But securing these remains an ongoing issue, one that is being actively worked on by the brightest minds within the industry. However, for the question of ‘How to Protect Yourself ’ the same simple security considerations remain; strong randomly generated passwords, up to date systems and correctly setup infrastructures remain some of the best recommendations to maintaining strong cyber security across all fields. Especially as the technology remains in its infancy revisions to it and the hardware it supports will iron out most issues in due course.
In conclusion, the adaptation of 5G is a fantastic new technology that comes with its own set of positives and challenges that are currently being discussed by vendors all over the world. Network slicing is an exciting new prospect that can strengthen a world-wide change to a conceptual zero trust architecture with dedicated levels of access built into a virtualised SDN, and all of this is coming to your city soon!