How to Protect Our Cities in the Age of 5G

There are many concerns circulating the internet recently about 5G – some are valid, others not so much (like the theory that 5G has caused the COVID-19 pandemic). 5G is the foundation for many future technologies and it will connect our cities in ways we have never seen before – this is not a bad thing at all, as 5G is a much faster and mire powerful network than any that has come before. 5G allows many exciting possibilities to arise in the future of smart cities and human existence!

However, there are some security concerns to address as we move into a new era.

Smart cities will run on 5G

First there was 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G – 5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks and is set to change business, society, and technology in our ‘smart cities.’ You may be wondering what exactly a smart city is – it is simply the term used to refer to modern cities in the present day.

“Smart cities are connected and benefit from the internet of things (IoT) sensors and technology to connect their components across a city, to make life easier for everyone living there,” says Fatimah Wong, a tech editor at 1Day2write and Writemyx. “Smart cities comprise of people, technology, infrastructure, management, economy and government. They are basically a means of connecting everything in a city from traffic monitoring to postal services to make things run better.”

What does this have to do with 5G? These smart cities will run on 5G, which is estimated to be up to 100 times faster than current 4G systems, and have 25 times less lag time. What’s more, 5G can support as many as 1 million devices per square km – which is 1000 x more than what is currently possible. With such greater connectivity, new possibilities open up, like drones replacing paramedics and automated driving.

The risks

“Like its predecessors, 5G is vulnerable to security breaches and cyber-attacks,” says
Sally Maxwell, a blogger at Britstudent and Nextcoursework. “5G has developed from the same technology as 3G, 4G and so on, and so has inherited misconfigurations and vulnerabilities.”

Moreover, given the entire system is connected, the risks to the whole population are much greater as 5G covers more areas than present telecoms equipment. If one node of the network is attacked, more members may be affected. Large-scale distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks will become more damaging – this is where a hacker overloads a network with traffic to render it useless. In one instance in Boston, a children’s hospital was hacked using DDoS and medical staff could not use medical equipment that relied on the network. This put a lot of lives at risk, and as we move into the era of smart cities, we need to be aware of what happens when applications that run on the internet are compromised.

Protocol weaknesses are also an issue, such as the method of encrypting communication between devices and cell networks being vulnerable to interception of information.

How do we protect our cities?

Smart cities must protect themselves and the two fundamental components of security, privacy and integrity, thoroughly. End to end security is built into 5G already, along with software defined differentiated security protection protocols that allows for diverse types and large numbers of devices to be connected to the network. Each device type is customised to the applications and tolerances of the applications that use them.

Hybrid authentication can be used – this form of authentication relies on a new, hybrid framework that coordinates different security methods for each security layer. If devices aren’t authenticated, processes are set in place to isolate them.

Network slicing can also be used, as this enables network elements and functions to be easily configured and reused in each network slice. Each slice looks like a self contained network, and can each have their own network architecture. These slices are high-security and highly reliable ways to combat security breaches, with each slice functioning differently for each application – either as low-band with and low-security, or high-security and high-reliability.

5G is set to change the way our cities look forever. The question is – are these cities ready for the potential security concerns 5G brings? With enough foresight and the use of advanced security protocols, smart cities can mitigate the risks such a huge shared network brings.

Written by Michael Dehoyos. Michael is a web developer at Phd Kingdom and Academic brits. He assists companies in their marketing strategy concepts, and contributes to numerous sites and publications. Also, he is a writer at Origin Writings, academic service.
Header image: Love Silhouette.

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