The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sweeping the globe has caused the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the international organization that creates telecommunication standards, to delay the release of two 5G standards. These standards will determine 5G requirements for standalone (SA) networks, industrial Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) systems.
The standards, Rel-16 Stage 3 and Rel-17, will be postponed until June 2020 and December 2021, respectively. While these releases are only being set back a few months, the delays could have a domino effect throughout the entire 5G ecosystem. This could potentially lead to further disruptions in various areas—from the launch of 5G Stand Alone (SA) networks to the production of 5G smartphones and wearables.
White House Releases National Strategy to Secure 5G in the United States
In March, the White House announced its national strategy to secure 5G networks in the United States. The policy describes how the U.S. will secure 5G wireless systems both domestically and internationally. The strategy is President Donald Trump’s first attempt to meet requirements outlined by the Secure 5G and Beyond Act, which requires him to identify a strategy that ensures the security of 5G communications and infrastructure within 180 days of him signing it.
The strategy includes four specific aims:
- to aid the expansion of 5G in the U.S.
- to estimate the vulnerabilities and determine the central security principles of 5G infrastructure
- to examine the risks to the country’s economic and national security throughout the expansion of 5G infrastructure globally
- to encourage responsible global advancement and distribution of 5G
5G May Face Similar Security Risks as 4G
A recent report from Positive Technologies, a network security analytics firm, suggests 5G will be as vulnerable to security risks as its 4G predecessor. Because 4G and 5G communication protocols are virtually the same, it is reasonable to anticipate similar vulnerabilities.
For example, during a denial-of-service attack (DoS), an attacker overwhelms a server with false requests to such an extent that it can’t differentiate false requests from authentic ones. In this method, an attacker uses an automated system that queries a host repeatedly. 4G networks are extremely vulnerable to DoS attacks due to a vulnerability in the Diameter Signaling Protocol, a language that enables phone signals to communicate with Internet Protocol (IP) network units. Because the protocol can’t identify the signal’s origin, it cannot tell the difference between an automated service attacking the system or an individual sending a real signal. According to the Positive Technologies report, 5G networks are believed to inherit this security flaw.
Additionally, there are two other potential issues that can make the problem even worse, writes Hubert Davis in Screen Rant. First, the rapidly developing Internet of Things is designed to be supported by 5G. IoT devices will come with their own vulnerabilities, creating seemingly endless opportunities for hackers. Secondly, once 5G is unleashed, these security issues will be extremely difficult to correct.
“Now, the dawn of 5G, is the perfect time to rebuild the signaling protocol and eliminate the older security flaws,” David writes. “By forgoing that option in favor of building 5G on the back of 4G, the only way telecom companies can patch the holes will be by bolting on new solutions. It could potentially solve the issues, but these solutions are inherently less secure than a language that never had those flaws in the first place.”
Understanding 5G Networks
As LTE technology evolves toward 5G, it’s vital for technical professionals and industry leaders to understand how to deliver on the 5G vision and meet consumer demand for higher communication speeds. Is your organization ready? Consider training your team with 5G Networks, a new course program from IEEE and Nokia.
Interested in learning more about 5G for yourself? Visit the IEEE Learning Network today!
David, Hubert. (30 March 2020). 5G Won’t Stop Network DoS Attacks From Happening, Here’s Why. Screen Rant.
(Paul, George). 26 March 2020. The coronavirus pandemic could impact 5G deployment timelines for network operators. Business Insider.
Vincent, Brandi. (25 March 2020). White House Releases National Strategy for 5G Security. Next Gov.