More Data, More Risk: Top 5 Threats Associated with the 5G Network | By Joe Peters

More Data, More Risk: Top 5 Threats Associated with the 5G Network

5G will take connectivity to a whole new level and bring smarter tech, seamless services, and faster phones, but could 5G also introduce higher security and privacy threats? 

While you may often hear that the next generation of wireless promises to boost health care, virtual reality, self-driving vehicles, and even mega "smart" cities, what you don't hear as frequently is how 5G is handling possible security, privacy, and health threats. 

So let's have a look at the top 5 threats associated with the emerging network.

1. Cyber Attacks 

As exciting as the new 5G world would be, it will experience a unique set of cybersecurity challenges. 

Cybercriminals and hackers worldwide will still access user data for profit, at a much larger detrimental scale. 

With myriads of devices connected to the web and improved technological capabilities because of 5G, hackers will have a massive attack surface that will make it easier to find the weakest spots in the security chain while remaining undetected. 

Vast amounts of smart gadgets and remote sensors all connected to global supply chains will drastically raise the complexity of protecting networks from cybercriminals. 

5G networks will create such a huge amount of data which will make it very difficult to spot abnormalities in user behavior.  

For instance, 5G will boost the widespread use of autonomous cars and studies have shown that the daily data output of 1 autonomous car will rival the daily data output of over 2900 people. 

That's a lot of data to monitor and secure, which means more vulnerable security points are created and can be explored by intruders. 

Compromised devices will also have access to a larger bandwidth and, from potential malware infections to DDoS attacks, the scope hackers have to create havoc will rapidly multiply. 

Here is an infographic detailing the expected cyber-attacks associated with 5G.

source: Symantec


2. Authentication 

While 2G, 3G and 4G networks, primarily catered to human users, 5G is reserved for "things".

Research firm Gartner recently revealed that two-thirds of companies intend to deploy 5G to connect to IoT devices. 

With the widespread use of 5G in the banking sector, across smart cities or in the critical infrastructure of nations - information transmitted must be trustworthy. 

5G usage may have to involve the reviewing of rules used in eliminating malicious network traffic, as the present rules may not be capable of handling the subtleties of the highly customized traffic that comes with 5G.

Introducing more IoT devices will also create attribution complexities for security statistics that have previously only monitored human subscribers and not machine subscribers built up of IoT devices.

3. Health 

There's a rapid rise in concern over the high-frequency millimeter radio signals that 5G network's use. Since a lot of small cells will be near people, there is a need to further research and study the effects it could have on humans. 

Some physicians earn that radiation emitted from 5G small cells may have harmful effects on people who are daily exposed or live close to where these radio waves emit. 

The frequency range 5G uses can go up to 300 GHz and this is in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is considered as harmful radio waves. 

source: DW

However, there's also another group that believes even though 5G signals are within the microwave scope of the electromagnetic spectrum, there's a wide difference between an oven and a small cell. 

Small cells, unlike microwave ovens that use high energy to heat food from within, use energy to send and receive radio signals. These are different applications of radio waves and thus this group asserts there's no cause of alarm. 

Despite the two diverging opinions, both groups do not have conclusive evidence on the health effects 5G may introduce, which further increases the anxiety regarding the network. 

The assurances of safety concerning 5G radiation links to the assumption that low radiation amounts are compatible with humans, but not on concrete biomedical research. 

High-frequency waves emitted by 5G only get a few millimeters into the skin and it is what is being used as the 'no worries' card, but our skin is the largest organ connected to various things such as an immune response. 

So practical evidence is required to understand what exactly we are getting into with 5G networks

The health threat is cee that needs more solid research because if true, it places people at huge risks.

4. Data Breach 

With the expanse of the 5G technology, there's also a rise in concern over the privacy threats the network poses. More data collection and enhanced location tracking mean limited places to hide. 

This is because 5G gives the ability of more-precise location tracking and offers the opportunity to gather massive additional personal data by introducing many cell towers close to people. 

Previous and current network towers are about a mile radius away from where you stay. 

But the new towers will cover a much smaller area, and since phones can identify your location based on which tower you are communicating with, the cell tower proximity of the 5G network will enable your location to be known with a lot more precision. 

It gets even worse as 5G doesn't penetrate walls adequately so there'll be a lot of indoor towers in hotels, shopping malls, and office buildings, making identifying user location even more precise.

Your location can reveal a lot about you and is extremely sensitive, which makes the breach that comes with 5G a serious threat.

5. Weather Satellite Interference 

Meteorologists worldwide have fears of what the 5G network may do to satellite instruments used to monitor atmospheric changes. 

The next-generation wireless system could impair reliable forecasts and cause poor warnings about storms

Meteorologists are ultimately concerned that such disruption in forecasting can cause loss of life. 

This worry stems from the fact that 5G network radio frequencies could interfere with crucial earth observations relayed by weather satellites. 

Instruments attached to these satellites study variables in the atmosphere such as rain, ice content, water vapor, snow, and cloud cover. 

These variables are all vital factors that influence weather conditions. 

A great example is the 23.8 GHz frequency, which water vapor emits signals at and is measured by weather satellite instruments. Forecasters then determine how a weather system will develop using the information gotten from the measurements. 

The problem, however, arises as certain 5G networks transmit on a frequency very similar to the one emitted by water vapor and so create a signal just like water vapor in the atmosphere.  

This will make it difficult or near impossible to differentiate between the two and cause the data received to be discarded, completely comprising the ability to ensure accurate forecasts.


The 5G network comes with faster speed, more data and a lot of new implementation abilities that will change the way we live but the risks that come along with it places doubts in the minds of many on the necessity of the next-generation wireless network. 

Risk such as increased cyber-attacks, authentication challenges and environmental issues all call for concerns on its adverse effects.  

About the Author

Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters

August 5, 2019

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