Stories

Why 5G keeps security experts awake

Illustration :Sarah Grillo, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

There are dimensions to security in the 5G age that no one, including the experts, has quite figured out yet.

Why it matters: If you think today's cybersecurity landscape is treacherous, just wait.

The "Internet of Things" problem: Devices for automating your home favor low prices over strong security, making them easy picking for hackers.

  • People secure those devices today by buying additional products to monitor home-network traffic.
  • But with 5G, many more devices will bypass that network and connect directly to the internet.
  • The problem isn't one hacked toaster — it's millions of controllable hijacked gizmos
  • Hackers can network together legions of devices to flood servers with so much traffic that they collapse. A recent website outage spanning Twitter, Netflix and Etsy was caused by weakly secured web cameras.

Data overload: The growth in connected devices also means an unimaginable amount of data will now be stored with every consumer.

  • Expect enormous privacy controversies. Who knows what kinds of data a new universe of smart bathroom products will collect or sell to advertisers?
  • The data explosion will also demand a rapid increase in cloud security in industries that haven’t much needed it in the past.

Security concerns could limit 5G in rural areas, where smaller carriers operate at lower profit margins.

  • When these providers upgrade services, including potentially providing 5G, they sometimes use cheaper Chinese hardware from companies like ZTE and Huawei.
  • But the same providers rely on federal funding to buy equipment, which the FCC seems poised to pull, and the private carriers might not be ready to make up the difference.

Go deeper: 5G set to speed up security risks