State of the Art 5G mobile broadband has the potential to power up smart cities and the internet of things (IoT), but as more devices are interconnected, telecoms and security experts are warning that cyber-attacks could increase in number, complexity and severity.
Every device in our environment and every-day life is getting “smarter” – mobile phones, TVs, smart meters, video doorbells, sprinkler systems, street lights, traffic cameras, cars, etc. all connected to the internet, collecting and transmitting useful, and usually private, data.
GSMA Intelligence forecasts that there will be more than 25 billion “internet of things” connections by 2025. That’s over three times the expected world population worth of devices, all holding valuable data as well as processes that will soon be vital to every day’s operations.
Added to the mix now is the 5G superfast mobile broadband. It is perceived as THE catalyst that will light up this massive network. But experts are queuing up to issue stark warnings about Security. “Security around IoT devices hasn’t been very good, so if they’re opened up to better connectivity, they’re opened up to more hackers, too,” says Cody Brocious, education lead at security consultancy HackerOne.
For the purpose of easier data gathering for Data Analytics firms and faster development of Artificial Intelligence, it is important that manufacturers focus on the affordability of these devices as well as their battery life. “Implementing good security into such devices will require more processing power and this drives up costs and drains power,” says 5G expert Dave Burstein, editor of WirelessOne.news.
This results in security not being the first priority in IoT, which raises concerns for delicate systems powering the economy and the Military. Steve Buck, Chief Operating Officer at telecoms security company Evolved Intelligence, goes so far as to say that “5G will power critical infrastructure, so a cyber-attack could stop the country.”
“Google and Facebook spend billions on security and both have recently been hacked,” says Mr. Burstein. “If they can’t be fully protected, how can an ordinary person be expected to secure the dozen or more connected devices many of us will soon have?”
It sounds like a heavy responsibility on the users’ shoulders that cannot be bared at their level only. Nevertheless, we will no longer be able to afford the level of carelessness with which we regard the security of our smart devices nowadays.
It has been two years that hackers have already started to use inter-connected home devices, such as CCTV cameras, printers and toasters to run Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on popular websites and banking platforms. “If a device starts connecting to something it doesn’t usually connect to, we might step in and block that traffic,” says Mr. MacHale, managing director of technology strategy at IT and networking firm Cisco Systems. “And we can spot suspicious behaviour even if the traffic is encrypted.”
This is why Jeff Lipton, vice president of WaterSmart in San Francisco, a company that makes connected programmable water meters, thinks “these systems need to be very carefully thought through before rushing to make every device in a city smart”. And the way national telecoms companies talk to each other also needs to be made more secure, says Steve Buck. “The interconnect which joins international networks together is the weak spot. A hacker can spoof your location and redirect your calls and texts. All he needs is your phone number.”
Cody Brocious believes you could stop “99% of hacker attacks” on IoT devices by “preventing inbound connections” to them, routing the communications through an intermediary server, most likely operated by the device manufacturer.
The regulators have been very concerned about threats brought forth by IoT and if we do not manage to find a compromise between what is useful and what is secure, the technology might end up exploited by the wrong hands.
Souhail, Consultant, Leyton UK