As the 5G evolution continues to gain momentum, we hear a great deal about the technology’s innovative features and tremendous potential. Much of the coverage has focused on the dramatic improvements in speed, controllability, latency reduction, quality of service instrumentation and reliability. However, as anticipation and discussion of new potential use cases grow, one area often profoundly misunderstood is security. Security is fundamental to today’s use cases, and 5G technology has specific requirements that are distinct from earlier wireless technologies.
This emerging technology enables organizations across every industry to take advantage of new use cases that were not possible before. The 5G network architecture also lets organizations address existing use cases in new ways. For example, the technology enables organizations to use software slices of the network. Each slice serves different needs and use cases to guarantee that crucial operating parameters are aligned with the use case requirements without squandering valuable network resources if they are not needed. Let’s examine some of the challenges to 5G and explore solution offerings to help enable the security and compliance required to support these new use cases.
5G Brings New Capabilities — and New Security Challenges
New 5G rollout technologies will support faster internet speeds and allow the simultaneous link of multiple systems and processes. 5G employs a variety of technologies. These include massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), heterogeneous networks (HetNet), millimeter wave (mmWave), network slicing, software-defined network (SDN), network function virtualization (NFV), non-orthogonal multiple-access (NOMA) and more to achieve these performance requirements.
Although the technology can support a variety of new use cases and network paradigms, these new technologies also introduce new security requirements that are subject to a wide range of attacks, such as eavesdropping and traffic analysis, jamming, DoS and DDoS, and man-in-the-middle (MITM).
The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance and experts Dongfeng Fang, Yi Qian and Rose Qingyang Hu in their paper “Security for 5G Mobile Wireless Networks” highlight the security requirements of 5G wireless networks. From a 4G standpoint, these requirements include improving availability and resilience for networks, public safety and mission-critical communications; designing security for low-latency use cases; and complying with 4G 3GPP security requirements. From a radio access perspective, 5G wireless networks require improving system protections again smart jamming attacks and increasing protection for 5G small cells.
Unlike legacy cellular networks, 5G wireless networks are expected to be much more service-oriented and require new security and privacy specifications to support those services. As organizations deploy their new use cases, they must be conscious of maintaining security and compliance in 5G components and devices and extend security policies across their infrastructures.
5G Empowering Secure IoT Manufacturing
Although much of the publicity around 5G focuses on public wireless capabilities, the technology also supports a variety of robust private deployment use cases. In IoT environments, 5G enables high-performance connections that will allow near real-time communication with sensors on manufacturing factory floors.
For example, the leading automotive manufacturer, BMW, has confirmed that it intends to apply for 5G spectrum licenses in the 3.7–3.8 GHz industrial band at its local factories. BMW is considering the deployment of 5G across its global production sites as well. “BMW sees great potential for production in the new 5G standard,” the company told Enterprise IoT Insights.
In a 2019 survey of cybersecurity and risk management decision-makers, 83% of respondents said 5G developments would create cybersecurity challenges for their organizations. Concerns include a lack of security considerations and the introduction of risks around virtualized and cloud-native infrastructure.
As part of a long-term plan, BMW plans to equip its plants with local, private 5G networks with IoT integration. BMW cites the advantages of private 5G in improving security, accelerating implementation and improving its manufacturing flexibility. At a pilot program in its China facilities, BMW achieved a transmission rate higher than one gigabit per second. Three of its plants have migrated to manufacturing environments that are 100% based on 5G technology.
The heterogeneity inherent in many 5G IoT deployments makes security more complex. Fortunately, there are some compelling developments for 5G and IoT device security. One of the most recent security solutions is the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Easy Connect™ system. According to IEEE, this feature allows companies to scan a QR code, creating a secure network connection by bootstrapping a protocol exchange based on an encoded public key for establishing bootstrap trust. Encoding the public key creates a private key, which means only the peer devices with the private key can access it.
BMW is also exploring the opportunities to apply 5G to support in-car connectivity. However, as George Mutune of Cyber Experts points out, this provides many opportunities for and increases the risk of cyberattacks. IoT devices, radars and sensors require tighter, more advanced security controls and authentication to prevent cybercriminals from gaining access.
Enhancing Efficiency in the Smart Grid
The utility and energy field has long been a leader in deploying innovative technologies. In smart grid environments, 5G holds the promising potential to support electricity forecasting capabilities that drive efficiency levels.
In power generation, the supply-demand balance of electricity is determined based on the comparison between actual demand and maximum supply capacity. This information is updated every five minutes.
The maximum supply capacity is the highest possible generation output available on a specific day. It is obtained by deducting the capacity of outage plants for maintenance, and the decreased capacity associated with a reduced flow rate of rivers from the total generation capacity. Because the flow rate of rivers, available generators and other energy sources vary regularly, maximum supply capacity changes every day. Utilities adjust their electricity generation based on this metric to avoid blackouts and minimize generation capacity underutilization.
Utilities employ a variety of power generation systems, including hydroelectric power, thermal power and nuclear power. They develop electricity generation plans by considering the specific characteristics of each generation system. For example, thermal power generation facilities can respond to fluctuating demands, and pumped storage hydroelectric power generation is more capable of responding to demand during peak times. The output from each power station is adjusted based on the combined characteristics of a utility’s specific power mix. Different generation systems vary in responsiveness.
- Hydroelectric power generators can start production or increase the power output in seconds or minutes.
- Thermal power generators take hours or even days before beginning production.
The output from generators is adjusted in response to actual consumption status to avoid costly excess generation capacity planning.
5G technology can play an essential role in enabling utilities to keep pace with rapid change. It offers low-latency communication, for instance, when there are fallen power lines or other incidents in which there is a need to switch supply routes on the grid to maintain power to the affected areas with as short a switchover time as possible (i.e., a few milliseconds). The agility of 5G is ideal for supporting the sophisticated sensing and load balancing of hydroelectric power generators. Much of today’s communication is based on copper wiring, but as the smart grid continues to evolve, utilities will embrace 5G wireless communication with its superior performance and scalability.
While the transfer of the data is vital in utility use cases, device management is also critical. For example, firmware over-the-air (FOTA) and application updates must be performed securely. Secure endpoints like Telit modules employ the secure boot standard for delivering safe and secure firmware updates and applications. As part of the security infrastructure, a device management platform allows secure communication and offers organizations the ability to manage their devices and free their development teams to focus on building applications instead of worrying about the security infrastructure.
Improving Flexibility and Service Quality in Public Safety
In public sector use cases, 5G is a potential game-changer in enabling metropolitan areas to improve citizen safety with high-speed, high definition surveillance cameras for live monitoring. With its superb performance, 5G allows public safety organizations to enrich surveillance with real-time analytics and supports traffic management, vehicle communications and other mission-critical capabilities.
Network slicing capabilities in 5G will play a key role in enabling governments to customize and obtain a more granular quality of service to support specific applications. For instance, they must ensure to prioritize first responder communications or sense and act as needed to alleviate, redirect traffic congestion from special events or accidents.
5G technology also offers security advantages. If a bad actor manages to breach one network slice, their attack will not be able to spread beyond that slice to impact other slices.
Next Steps for 5G Deployment
5G has the potential to transform essential processes across a variety of industries dramatically. Now is a great time to prepare for 5G implementation. The first step is to build a deeper understanding of the benefits of how 5G can support your specific use case. Gain insight into how 5G helps the sandboxing of network deployments and evaluate its capabilities to learn more about how it can enhance your business outcomes securely.
When choosing a vendor, 5G is resetting the importance of selecting an organization with a comprehensive knowledge of your use case’s specific needs, end-to-end solution and security aspects. Telit has accumulated extensive experience in connecting enterprise, IoT across private and public sectors. Its experts have pioneered a successful end-to-end system approach that assures that all the pieces work together seamlessly when connecting the edge to apps and clouds, from device management to connectivity management and data management and everything in between.
Telit modules are built with security in mind and partnership with industry leaders aware of the importance of security in today’s enterprise, manufacturing and public sector environments. Our solutions support full-service capabilities in the module and beyond, from data processing to application updates and management. Telit offers all the security, expertise and capabilities you’ll need to incorporate 5G technology to support your use case and move your solution to market faster with confidence. Request to qualify for a 5G sample kit.