5 For 5G: 4 Mobile Security Implications You Should Be Thinking About Now & 1 Bold Prediction
By Ryan Schwartz
The question, however, is how big is 5G really? Well, according to the mobile network operator industry organization, GSMA, technological innovations from 5G could contribute as much as $2.2 trillion to the global economy over the next 15 years. That’s a big number, but “technological innovations” is a pretty nebulous term. It’s not enough to state that “5G is going to be big, because it will enable advancements that will spur economic growth.
” I want to dig in a little deeper and understand what those advancements are so that we can be ready at every part of the adoption curve—especially when it comes to cybersecurity. But we’re not talking about doom-and-gloom—there’s plenty of that out there if that’s your thing. Instead, my goal is to highlight how 5G will enable advancements in cybersecurity and ultimately make us safer.
The first few predictions start with some familiar topics, but strap in because in the spirit of a true listicle, the last one…may shock you.
1. Zero Trust will continue to expand in an effort to address the millions of newly connected devices. In a study from the Business Innovation Performance Network, 94% of the IT and business leaders surveyed expected connected devices and IoT use cases to significantly increase security concerns due to the growth in overall network traffic. Organizations like Security Roundtable prescribe Zero Trust as one possible remedy, and it makes sense; ultimately, if Zero Trust posits that an organization must “never trust, always verify,” it suddenly becomes easier to parse through hundreds or thousands of new connections to corporate resources if there is already a mechanism in place keeping authorized users on conditional rails and outright denying those users deemed an immediate risk.
Choosing solutions that define that Zero Trust approach should be a relatively easy task. For instance, at the end user link in the chain, a unified endpoint management (UEM) platform equipped with identity and mobile threat defense (MTD) capabilities can not only define the conditions for a specific device to be granted access, but assign a score based on determined level of risk that device poses to an organization.
2. Edge computing is not a new concept, but 5G is poised to exponentially increase its usefulness. We’ve already mentioned the significant increase in connected devices directly correlated to 5G growth. That prediction is not necessarily history repeating itself but instead, to steal from Mark Twain, history rhyming, as 4G was also expected to bring with it a wave of new device interactions. In the case of 4G, though, those devices were primarily envisioned to be smartphones and tablets.
With 5G, the business canvas is expanding, including not only smartphones and tablets but 5G-connected laptops, wearables, and non-standard devices from AR/VR headsets to smartboards. Whether we’re talking about a physician attempting to access critical patient data in real-time through a wearable or that same doctor modeling human organs with the help of VR goggles, the ultra-low latency and near-instant access to data afforded by 5G edge computing can mean life-saving innovation—but it also raises questions about data loss and, in this case, HIPAA compliance at the edge. “Back-end” system data security is no longer sufficient so enterprise IT must enforce a higher level of local device protection and more granular control. The upside is that all activity on a device, from a BYOD smartphone to medical IoT, will be more secure and the privacy of the user stands to be improved.
3. 5G will move data with the speed of fiber over-the-air so data governance and privacy must keep pace. In this reduced-latency environment reliant on instantaneous connectivity, the concept of centralized datacenters and storage resources is smashed, and old notions of control slip away. Data portability is essential to keep business moving but we need to keep controls and policy in place to protect privacy, achieve compliance and prevent leakage and theft. One solution is to encrypt everything, grant and revoke access to it, and maintain control of it even when it leaves the host system to be consumed or manipulated on the edge. Another 5G-enabled model is the rise of virtualized mobile infrastructure where data never actually resides on the device—think of a mirror—and offline work is extremely limited.
4. The future will be a SASE (pronounced: sasē) one as focus shifts away from the centralized datacenter. SASE is the concept of essentially converging traditional networking and network security software and making it available at the edge. SASE will not only verify users and devices but will perform real-time conditional access checks to determine how best to optimize the connection, ensure data integrity, control latency, and deliver appropriate security coverage, among other items. In plain English, SASE is less a technology and more a concept—a conductor keeping security and networking tools in concert, ready to deploy in custom configurations based on the type of sessions devices and users initiate.
As of this writing, SASE, or secure access service edge, is a nascent technology with 1% adoption in the enterprise. However, according to Gartner in 2019’s The Future of Network Security is in the Cloud, that adoption is expected to rise to 40% by 2024. Why? One reason is 5G. As Gartner notes, access requirements have “inverted” with more devices, users, and data residing outside of the enterprise. This contributes to the evergreen mantra that states: digital transformation demands anywhere, anytime access to apps and data. This can be boiled down to “employees require anywhere, anytime access to apps and data” as remote work, reliance on SaaS apps and processes, and mobility programs (think BYOD) lead to a growing enterprise perimeter. Additionally, 5G speeds will invite new ways for those employees to connect—and in greater volumes.
5. Fully realized 5G will feel like the Upside Down. We are already experiencing “identity as the perimeter” as users access data from a variety of devices and networks. But stranger things are going to happen: emerging 5G use cases will explode the factors that can and should be used to calculate risk. Take, for example, a British sales representative travelling to France in their autonomous vehicle that is equipped for mobile work productivity while they relax. Because of the regulatory differences between the UK and France, what’s permitted on one side of the border may not be legal on the other. Real-time, rules-based conditional access supported by artificial intelligence (AI) will evolve to ingest a massive amount of context (e.g., user, location, activity, biometrics, behavior, local laws, data requested) to keep the sales rep compliant without bringing their productivity to a crawl. Essentially, the future is personalized. Custom configurations developed at the edge will quickly adapt to a changing digital landscape, propelled forth with the quickness of 5G (or eventually 6G for you futurists).
But regardless of that final prediction, what can a business do today to prepare for any “G” tomorrow? There is no single, definitive answer, but as was mentioned throughout this article, a few key technologies will go a long way. To manage the sheer volume of new devices and access requests, a unified endpoint management (UEM) solution with either out-of-the-box identity and access management (IAM) capabilities or a way to integrate with existing software will keep the front door locked until users are verified. However, even with the right management tools in place, security must be on every enterprise IT leader’s mind. And in a 5G environment where any device can effectively become “mobile,” a mobile threat defense (MTD) platform with UEM and security intelligence and event management (SIEM) integration can proactively address risks before they become “events.”
The good news is that IBM Security, in partnership with Wandera, has come prepared, already delivering solutions for 5G use cases to let you step into the future with confidence.