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By now, you might have heard or read something about 5G mobile networks. As the name suggests, 5G denotes the fifth generation of cellular data and voice technology. Each generation so far has represented a significant technological advancement:
- 1G pioneered truly wireless calling as well as roaming.
- 2G introduced digital call encryption and SMS (text messages).
- 3G enabled data speeds appropriate for heavy internet browsing and app usage.
- 4G LTE supported even faster, more efficient networks built on packet-switching.
Given the flurry of digital activity that 5G will enable, it will be more important than ever to secure your actual device against theft and unauthorized access.
So what’s the main leap forward with 5G?
For starters, expect more bandwidth and speed, as is typical of a generational upgrade. 5G will also work with a wider range of frequencies than its predecessors, including ones that were previously only used by devices such as weather satellites. As a result, it will be able to support ten times as many devices per square kilometer as 4G.
Many of those devices will be a part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Think connected home appliances, embedded sensors and autonomous/semi-autonomous vehicles. The IoT has been a looming security liability for years. With the mainstream launch of 5G in the coming years, we might finally see some of its biggest vulnerabilities hit home. Here’s what to watch out for:
Effective password management is a pillar of modern cybersecurity. Unfortunately, many 5G-connected devices, especially those within the IoT, will ship with weak or hardcoded passwords that allow for unauthorized access. Make sure that any logins for these devices are as secure as possible by immediately changing their default credentials, which are often easily guessable combos like “admin/admin.”
Software updates – or lack thereof
The devastating Krack flaw in Wi-Fi security, revealed in 2017, was bad for routers but worse for IoT devices. Many of them lacked any feasible way to patch the exploit, rendering them effectively unusable for anyone who cared about wireless security. If you see an update become available for your 5G-enabled device, apply it right away. If it can’t be updated or produces a warning instead, consider replacing it with something safer.
5G connectivity is designed for machine-to-machine communications, meaning your 5G-enabled device will likely be in contact with many sensors and services wanting access to its data. Be very careful about applications you approve in this context. Some of them may be attempting to harvest your information or even install malware.
At a minimum, create a unlock PIN code or biometric login.
Device and account security
Given the flurry of digital activity that 5G will enable, it will be more important than ever to secure your actual device against theft and unauthorized access. At a minimum, create a unlock PIN code or biometric login. Better yet, enable two-factor authentication on your important accounts so that someone knowing/guessing your login alone won’t be enough for them to gain access to your sensitive data.