5G: Ready or Not, Here It Comes

5G: Ready or Not, Here It Comes
David Pitlik

In a breakneck world of constant technological innovation, the impending arrival of 5G mobile broadband stands out as a true game changer. 5G promises to go beyond simply connecting people, enabling them to fully realize the Internet of Things (IoT) and a digital transformation so all-encompassing that some call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

According to the June 2019 Ericsson Mobility Report, more than 10 million 5G subscriptions are expected worldwide by the end of this year. And that number will balloon to 1.9 billion by 2024. The report further predicts that by 2024, 5G networks will carry 35 percent of mobile data traffic globally.

We asked a panel of experts to share their views on how 5G will impact the way business is done.

New Opportunities—and New Risks

We are probably underestimating the impact of 5G technology and how it will change the world in the next five to 10 years, according to Tom Ilube CBE, CEO of Crossword Cybersecurity. “This technology will take us to a world where everything is digitally alive and internet-connected,” he said. “Of course, all of these new connections will create vulnerabilities to cybersecurity threats. And companies will need to be ready for a world where anything can be attacked at any time. A world where 5G has been rolled out and has been integrated into everything is a different digital world than the one we live in today.”

According to Lorena Marciano, EMEAR data protection and privacy officer for Cisco Systems, 5G’s biggest impact will be on speed and scale. “5G will enable us to do IoT on a much larger scale as coverage areas expand to places not currently connected,” she predicted. “5G will be an enormous opportunity for businesses. At Cisco, we are working at the core of the network, and we have an enormous responsibility to our customers to ensure they have the agility and security needed to take advantage of new opportunities. 5G will change people’s lives. We will be able to connect devices that are not connected today, and do it more efficiently.” One of the areas we will have to address is how data is protected, she added. “We need to create policies, processes, and technologies that will instill confidence that data will be safe.”

Michael Fieldhouse, social impact practice leader at DXC Technology, also cautions that 5G promises new risks along with those new opportunities. “The speed of 5G will open up more and different types of solutions,” he said. “For instance, we will have real-time applications that allow factories to run nearly autonomously. New business models will be possible, and new markets will open up as everything becomes more connected. While we’ll see tremendous efficiency gains and reductions in the cost of doing business, we will have to balance that with new risks.”

Don’t Let 5G Distract You from Current Threats

“One of the many advantages of 5G is that this is the very first time that we’ve had security baked into a telecommunications protocol,” concluded Nic Miller, founder of cybersecurity firm Aedile Consulting. “In the past, we’ve rolled out technology and then discovered a problem and had to deal with it. Here, security has been thought through before the rollout happens.” When it comes to security, he warned, the pressing issue is not 5G, but everything else. “Most businesses are still using single-factor authentication from domain controllers, which puts them at real risk,” he said. “The problem is that many large companies cannot do technology management at scale. It’s exciting to think about the promise of 5G, but we shouldn’t get distracted from the critical threats and vulnerabilities that are actually impacting companies today.”

David Pitlik is a long-time technology and business writer and frequent contributor to NETSCOUT’s blog.

Note: The information above is based on interviews conducted at the June 2019 WSJ Pro Cybersecurity Executive Forum by Wall Street Journal reporters on behalf of NETSCOUT

Watch interviews with WSJPro Cybersecurity Executive Summit attendees here.