Security vs. Privacy: What’s the distinction in the 5G era?

 

Mobile broadband has fundamentally changed the way people and businesses go through their day-to-day tasks both personal and professional. Today 5G is available in dozens of countries with operators around the world prepping to launch and further scale the next-generation of wireless. 

In addition to delivering an enhanced mobile broadband experience, 5G will serve as the connectivity medium for a huge array of new applications built on the collection and analysis of data. In addition to the immediate impact on consumers, 5G will support the internet of things at a massive scale and enable ultra reliable low latency communications. This combination means the physical world will become digitized; the amount of data created will grow at a mind-boggling pace, allowing for real-time analysis and action. 

With this seachange in connectivity already taking shape and only set to accelerate, there are some key questions about security and privacy and how the two will intersect and diverge.  Let’s explore the distinction between security and privacy and why it’s a vital consideration for consumers, businesses and governments. 

Data Security: 

Most pressing of potential new risks in the 5G era is the impact of scale on security. More data means more opportunities for hackers to find weaknesses, and harder for network operators or enterprises to recognize suspicious or unusual user behavior because it will be better hidden within the surrounding data.  

Further, the sheer number of devices requiring security and authentication will skyrocket. Because these devices will also require a longer lifetime than previously used devices, they will also require low-power security measures that don’t hinder long-term battery life.  

5G will be used for a staggering variety of applications, devices and networks, which means that security solutions will have to become more customized and specialized with varying levels of security.  

Data Privacy: 

The current diversification of mobile network operators and services ensures that the origins of our data remain diverse. However, because competition for 5G service delivery is fierce and because there are clear front runners, it can be expected that this power will be consolidated into the hands of only a few companies, increasing the ability of those few companies to access and utilize consumer data more directly. 

Right now many people use mobile devices and cloud-based services to conduct personal and business banking, track and monitor health data, and share photos and messages, among other things. This increasing overlap between our personal and digital selves will only increase as 5G enables all new types of personalized applications that will collect and consume data. 

Because the surveillance potential of a system comprised of billions of antennas, sensors and cell relays is one of a previously inconceivable scale, the risk posed to data privacy is an issue of a whole new scale.

This is the first in a series of articles that will explore the many facets of 5G cybersecurity. In this dynamic and complex space, it’s imperative the telecom operators, vendors and government officials work together to ensure 5G cybersecurity at a global scale with a strong focus on transparency and verification. For more information, explore the following materials: 

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