5G

Why 5G (and even 6G) could put your business at risk for a cyberattack

The next generation of wireless networking standards could leave critical security gaps open, according to University of Dundee research.

The 5G future will be blazingly fast, opening up new opportunities for business innovation everywhere. Unfortunately, it could also put your business data at risk.

New research from researchers out of the ETH Zurich, the University of Lorraine/INRIA, and the University of Dundee, 5G improves on data protections offered in 3G and 4G standards, but it "it isn't as secure as hoped," according to the University of Dundee's Saša Radomirovic, as quoted in a university news article.

"In its current state, 5G does not close all the security gaps, which could result in numerous cyber-attacks and users being charged for the mobile phone usage of a third party," Radomirovic said in the article. And while the team has proposed fixes, they "remain concerned about are the less than perfect privacy protections it provides leaving users vulnerable to targeted attacks," Radomirovic said.

SEE: 5G technology: A business leader's guide (Tech Pro Research)

As noted in the report, the 5G standards from 3GPP utilize an Authenticated Key Exchange protocol for security. However, it doesn't use "mutual authentication requirements and agreement properties on the established key," the report said.

Towards the end of the report, the authors make several recommendations for what can be done to improve the security of 5G. These include making specific requirements for 5G to include missing protections, examining redundancies and the role of SQM, and highlighting the importance of formal testing methods.

"The most important takeaway from our work is that introducing a new technology without a rigorous formal analysis of its specifications may lead to serious consequences," Radomirovic said in the article.

While these issues exist in 5G, which is very close to its formal launch, the future 6G wireless networks also have potential security issues. As pointed out in a Network World report, terahertz-based 6G networks are not as immune to Man-in-the-Middle attacks as once thought. The smaller frequencies were thought to be too tiny to intercept, but research published in the journal Nature has shown that an attackers can eavesdrop on these networks without being detected.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • The 5G networking standards are missing critical security protections and could put businesses and users at risk.
  • Terahertz-based 6G networks, once thought to be immune to Man-in-the-Middle attacks, can be intercepted without the victim knowing.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/zazamaza

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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