5G and the Security of Connected Devices


In a world with watches that wirelessly beam video across the country, refrigerators that can read you the local weather report and Wi-Fi-enabled barbecue grills, it’s hard to imagine the world of connected devices becoming much more complex.

But the imminent 5G revolution is likely to bring with it devices that advance comfort, convenience, entertainment and safety in ways we never thought possible — all of which will need secure wireless controls as to not be turned against us.

During the final week of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), we’re taking a closer look at the future of 5G and internet-connected devices — how they could benefit us, what sorts of dangers they could pose, and what we can do to secure them, both now and into the future.

“5G will pump $12 trillion into the global economy by 2035 and add 22 million new jobs in the United States alone”

According to the New Yorker, “5G will pump $12 trillion into the global economy by 2035 and add 22 million new jobs in the United States alone,” while ushering in “a fourth industrial revolution.”

This could be hard to imagine if you primarily view 5G as something that could someday allow you to download the entire Harry Potter film catalog faster than you can say “Accio Nostalgia!” But the true value of 5G to society is likely to come in the form of technological advancements not intended for the consumer market, such as robots making precision-machined components in a factory; surgeons using VR headsets and gloves to perform surgeries remotely; and smart cities that function as a sort of macrocosm of our current smart homes, tying together things like trash collection, parking meters and public restrooms to improve safety, sanitization and convenience.

That isn’t to say there won’t be plenty for the average consumer to enjoy, however. Truly autonomous vehicles that connect with traffic signals and other vehicles and react more quickly than human drivers are already in the works, and console-quality video games on your phone (or video games on your console with near-zero lag) are a logical next step once the anticipated reductions in latency come to pass.

Stores that allow you to try on clothing without stepping foot into a dressing room — or see what a new sofa would look like in your living room without leaving the furniture store — are a natural progression from the sort of augmented reality first brought to the mainstream by Pokémon Go.

And that’s to say nothing of your cellphone: anticipated download speeds of up to 10 Gbps will revolutionize what you can do with your phone, how quickly you can do it, and how many things you can do at once without affecting performance.

But as with other advances in digital technology, the same things that can make life easier for us can also make life immeasurably more difficult in the hands of cybercriminals. 5G will significantly increase the number of IoT devices coming online — and right now IoT security regulations are basically nonexistent.

As a result, as this increasing attack surface continues to draw more cybercriminals, we’re likely to see skyrocketing rates of IoT malware. The addition of more devices and more bandwidth doesn’t just give cybercriminals more to target directly — it could also bring about DDoS attacks far more debilitating and widespread than the ones we see today. Wireless security will be a must.

To stop the influx of attacks will require the cooperation of all stakeholders. Minimum cybersecurity requirements for manufacturers of IoT devices would go a long way toward preventing attacks, as would the establishment of a rating system (similar to the ones that currently measure usage cost on water heaters) to inform customers how safe a particular device is compared to others.

There are also things users can do to stay safe — many of which are best practices now, but will become crucial as 5G technology is fully adopted:

  • Install malware protection on your devices, if it isn’t there already
  • Ensure that none of your devices, particularly IoT devices, are still using the factory default password
  • Always make sure that your devices are patched and running the latest OS version
  • Keep up with the latest developments in cybercrime — just because you’re adequately secured now doesn’t mean you will be in the future
  • Only purchase internet-connected devices from companies who have made securing these devices a top priority.

As Champions of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, SonicWall is committed to helping organizations develop strategies for anywhere, anytime, any device security — not just during October, but all year long. For more cybersecurity news and tips, follow us on social media and check out our blog.

Amber Wolff
Senior Digital Copywriter | SonicWall
Amber Wolff is the Senior Digital Copywriter for SonicWall. Prior to joining the SonicWall team, Amber was a cybersecurity blogger and content creator, covering a wide variety of products and topics surrounding enterprise security. She spent the earlier part of her career in advertising, where she wrote and edited for a number of national clients.