5G is more secure and faster than 4G. 5G is a physical transformation of our critical networks with long-term implications. The vision of 5G wireless networks is to provide extremely high data rates and good coverage. Therefore, the shift could achieve the intended vision through dense base station deployment with:
  • increased capacity,
  • low latency, and
  • significantly improved Quality of Service (QoS).
However, new research indicates that it contains vulnerabilities that could jeopardize phone users. These overarching 5G security concerns are beyond users’ privacy. In this article, EFANI takes the lead to provide an overview of the privacy issues and other pressing 5G security vulnerabilities. We will also present a 5g security analysis of threats and future directions for a secure 5G system.

Why is 5G security vulnerability a modern concern?

Wireless communication systems have been vulnerable to security flaws since their inception. This section will broaden your understanding of the inherent 5G security concerns. A simple synopsis below will provide a timeline of adaptive threat vectors:
  • Mobile phones and wireless channels were targeted for illegal cloning and masquerading in the first-generation (1G) wireless networks.
  • Message spamming became common in the second generation (2G) of wireless networks. Additionally, spamming was also part of the transfusion of false information or transmitting unsolicited marketing information.
  • IP-based communication facilitated the migration of online security flaws and barriers to wireless domains in third-generation (3G) wireless networks.
  • With the growing importance of IP-based communication, fourth-generation (4G) wireless networks expanded mobile devices. Additionally, multimedia traffic and accompanying services increased dramatically. This evolution resulted in a more complicated and evolving threat environment.
  • With the introduction of fifth-generation (5G), security concerns would be more prominent than ever before, significant for privacy.

What are some critical 5G security vulnerabilities, and how to protect against these?

As we have seen above, 5G will connect vital infrastructure. Therefore, increased security measures will be necessary to secure the infrastructure and the collective security of society. For example, data is essential for the decision-making process. Corruption in the sensitive data through 5G networks can wreck our privacy. As a result, it is crucial to examine and identify the 5g security concerns. This section will also provide an overview of potential solutions to secure 5G systems.

5g security analysis of threats and solutions

(1) Privacy

[Threat] The substantial concerns about privacy for users may arise from location, data, and identity. The access point selection algorithms in 5G mobile networks can dissipate location privacy at the physical layer level. For instance, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) could use subscribers User Equipment (UE) to disclose their identity. In addition to that, network carriers had direct access to and control over all system components in the past. Unfortunately, 5G mobile operators will lose complete systems governance. It is because of the involvement of the new actors such as CSPs (Communication Service Providers). As a result, 5G operators will lose complete control over security and privacy. [Solution] The threat analysis calls for the following tier-to-tier solution:
  • The first level of regulation is at the government level. It is where governments primarily create country-specific privacy regulations.
  • The second level is the 5G security standard propositions by groups and industries. It includes groups like 3GPP, ONF, and ETSI, to protect privacy.
  • 5G architecture should incorporate privacy-by-design approaches. Additionally, mobile operators should adopt a privacy-preserving 5G architecture. A service-oriented approach is a two-tier approach where:
    • It will hold sensitive data locally,
    • However, it will store less sensitive data on the cloud.
  • For IMSI prevention, EFANI takes the lead and makes it challenging to identify mobile devices. It prevents subscribers from eavesdropping on the radio interface. Thus, ensuring the successful prevention of an IMSI attack.

(2) Network Security:

[Threat] 5G builds on previous generations. Thus, it brings legacy vulnerabilities to light, such as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. Unfortunately, 5G is a haven for DDoS attacks. A DDoS attack is a cyberattack that floods a server, website, network, or service with internet traffic. If the victim’s server, service, website, or network is overwhelmed, it becomes inoperable. Even with increased security measures in place, 5G networks and equipment may still be vulnerable. [Solution] CSPs must respond rapidly to new cyber-attack methods (adaption). They should also limit the time a hacker remains undiscovered (speed). Numerous 5G security vulnerabilities designed are to prevent detection. However, there are multifaceted algorithms and machine learning that can coincide and analyze data. This analysis will provide contextual risk vectors by detecting anomalies.

(3) SS7 vulnerability

[Threat] Due to its capabilities and flexibility, 5G has the potential to be highly vulnerable to cyberattacks. The software manages everything. However, the former poses a significant security risk in itself. Another factor is the sheer number of devices connected to 5G networks. We all know that 5G will connect billions of devices. Therefore, SS7 is a growing source of concern for 5G security. The SS7 protocols (Signaling System No. 7) govern the exchange of signaling messages. Irrespective of its age, SS7 is still relevant. It is actively used in the 2G and 3G networks. [Solution] Despite its flaws, two-factor SMS authentication is still widely used. Move away from SMS and toward other methods of user authentication that do not rely on antiquated telephone protocols such as SS7. Today, numerous solutions are available on the enterprise level and government agencies. It can range from complex customized mobile VPN systems to innovative plug-and-play solutions like EFANI.

Conclusion: What have we learned so far?

5G has called into question our long-held beliefs about network security and devices. These adaptive learning posed greater applications security that most of us never recognized. It is necessary to improve the safety of the 5G standard through community scrutiny. We have comparatively less time to identify and eliminate 5G security vulnerabilities. It is also due to the given 5G wide availability. As a result, this article outlined the critical 5G security vulnerabilities. It could become riskier if not appropriately addressed timely. We’ve also discussed the security mechanisms and solutions to these problems. To summarize, new kinds of security challenges and threats are very likely to emerge. However, taking these impediments into account from the beginning of the process will reduce the possibility of potential security and privacy negligence.