Everything You Need to Know About 5G Security

Haseeb Awan
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April 20, 2023


Cell phone users want high data speed and reliable services, and the 5G technology of fifth-generation wireless networks promises to bring about just that and more. With 5G, data transmitted over wireless broadband connection estimates up to a maximum speed of 20 gigabits per second. 5G significantly increases the amount of data transmission through wireless systems due to additional bandwidth, and a smartphone user can download a full-length movie in about 15 seconds.

5G technology is already reshaping and improving cellphone connections. Thanks to the high-speed and low latency of 5G networks, billions of devices and IoT (internet of things) are interconnected.

However, great potential and unlimited connectivity bring forth many security challenges, and for 5G success, security capabilities are the key. The fifth-generation mobile communication system has higher security requirements than previous systems. As it unlocks more significant opportunities for businesses like manufacturing, healthcare, and the 5G IoT market, it has also opened up loopholes for security breaches.

Before we shed light on the future security implications that 5G will have, let's examine 5G security and potential security threats on 5G network technology.

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What is 5G Security?

5G technology allows networks to connect almost anything and everything virtually, including machines and devices. But since the technology is relatively new, there is no official definition available to define it. Nevertheless, much of the online debate has focused on the 5G security and threats in developing and designing the 5G infrastructure.

The major networks and government are worried about the security of 5G and its impact on future data sharing. According to the AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report in the United States, only 16% of businesses have started preparing to mitigate the security threats related to 5G.

Although it is considered the most secure wireless network technology due to its extensive built-in security features, one should never throw caution to the wind when adopting new technology.

Inherited Security Flaws

Most network operators have created 5G networks based on the core of existing LTE networks, which means that 5G is vulnerable to all the threats associated with 4G networks. It shows that 100% of 5G NSA networks are most likely exposed to DoS attacks. For compatibility with old communication standards like 2G, 3G, and 4G, 5G technology must provide secure communication with devices using old measures.    

More Connected Devices, Increased Attack Surface

Millions of devices like home appliances, industrial automation controls, televisions, cars, smartphones, climate monitoring sensors, next-generation tablets and other wide ranges are likely to be connected to 5G—the attack surface increases due to a large number of connected devices. 

MiTM attacks and 5G

5G is susceptible to a Man-in-the-Middle-attack (MiTM). In a MiTM attack, hackers eavesdrop on signals sent over the cellphone or the internet, get the information and enter their commands while impersonating the legitimate mobile network operator.

Network Traffic Visibility

With the implementation of 5G, networks are likely to become more usable for consumers and cellphone users, resulting in managing network traffic. However, without Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), businesses may not achieve the network traffic visibility needed to identify attacks. With other critical vulnerabilities, 5G also has identification and authentication flaws.

IP and DDoS Attacks

5G technology depends on SDN or software-defined-network layers to perform heavy tasks. Although SDN provides flexibility to the 5G network, 5G networks become an easy target for IP attacks like distributed denial of service or DDoS and network hijacking.

To strengthen the 5G network security, we must implement security risk mitigation measures and solutions. 

Understanding 5G Security Infrastructure

The emerging security architecture is based on 3G and 4G security architecture ideas but expands and enhances them into a new 5G environment. It also includes new enhancements such as encryption, authentication, user privacy, and a set of security measures and procedures to implement the security controls required to achieve the identified security objectives. All operations previously performed by physical devices in the 4G network are now successfully managed by 5G cloud-based microservices through the radio side.

The 5G network infrastructure can provide consumers and businesses with an enhanced experience, supporting advancements for industrial IoT (internet-of-things), automated driving, telemedicine, 5G blockchain technology and more. However, realizing the full potential of 5G calls for innovative thinking and a new 5G infrastructure security to cope with increasing cyber threats, complex tasks, and more network connections.

Furthermore, the fundamental design concepts of 5G infrastructure focuses on security, significant application performance and versatility are consists of:

  • Network slicing; a dedicated logical network for isolated applications
  • MEC or mobile edge computation
  • Application-level security
  • Interconnect (SBA or service-based architecture)
  • Software-defined networking (SDN)
  • Network function virtualization

Is 5G more Secure Than 4G, 3G, and 2G?

The simple answer is "Yes" because 5G's network and security technique have been improved. It is not just faster than 4G, 3G, and 2G. It offers advanced security capabilities as well. Ensuring a 5G service involves more than just relying on advancements like better broadband services and higher download speeds.

Implementing mitigation techniques and fixes for the known dangers and vulnerabilities of 5G networks is necessary for network security. All the while allocating funds and enforcing regulations to constantly watch for and respond to new risks as they appear.

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5G Network Security Risk Landscape

The advancement of the network to 5G has also introduced the world to many cyber risks. A few of them also existed in the previous generations. Some are new risks that are particular to the 5G technology's SDN (software-defined networking) protocol.

Inherited Issues

As opposed to older mobile communication technologies from 2G-4G, 5G, by its very essence, contains improved security features. 5G technology must still offer a method of communication with devices that use the previous standards to be fully compatible. This compatibility requirement ensures that attacks discovered in the obsolete SS7 and Diameter standards used by older networks can continue tormenting a new 5G-focused network connection. Since it lacks a security-minded design to address the problem at its core.

New Issues

Although user adoption of 5G is still in its inception, experts and attackers have had years to examine the technology. At least six serious security problems involving holes in 5G's authorization and verification processes have been found during that time.


Like most IP networked devices, 5G is vulnerable to MITM (Man-in-the-Middle) attacks. These attacks use IMSI catchers and malicious core networks. They pose as devices from authorized mobile network operators and collect sensitive information.

IP Vulnerabilities

Most of the grunt work for 5G is handled by the SDN layer instead of relying on proprietary technology. While SDN increases the 5G network's adaptability and extension, it is also vulnerable to IP attacks like Distributed Denial of Service. Network hijack is yet another IP attack type employed against 5G technology. When a malicious user hijacks a network, sensitive information is first rerouted through the system of the hijacker before being sent back to the original destination.

Supply chain hazards

Government involvement in manufacturing telecommunications equipment is one-way politics may affect 5G security. For instance, numerous nations, such as the US, UK, and Australia, have passed laws prohibiting the 5G infrastructure products use purchased from Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE, Huawei. Concerns regarding claimed Chinese governmental control over certain 5G vendors, which could result in 5G devices supplied by these vendors being corrupted, are the reason behind these measures.

Crooked foreign networks

Governments more interested in obtaining data on mobile networks than customer security is in charge of regulating foreign networks. Federal agencies may use their legislative control to compel the installation of security holes without disclosing this to the general public.

What Are The 5G Security Challenges?

Every new technology brings with it new features and challenges. Similarly, 5G comes with several advancements, challenges, and risks concerning 5G security. Early identification of these challenges can significantly positively impact the overall outcome of 5G technology.

Organizations must be prepared and take proactive measures to mitigate 5G security challenges to reap the benefits of the emerging technology. 

Zero-Trust Security

A firewall alone is no longer enough. The organization should embrace zero-trust security, help customers adopt a zero-trust approach, and leverage zero-trust frameworks for extra protection for devices and networks.

Protection for IoT Devices

Many security gurus have emphasized the security of IoT devices by deploying customized security solutions. EDR allows monitoring devices, investigating threats, and remotely responding to threats using IoT devices. Endpoint protection and EDR solutions are designed for lightweight devices with limited memory and compute capabilities.

Organizations should help customers choose IoT devices with built-in security features, offer protection from threats, and provide solutions.

Adopt Virtualization and Automated Security Controls

A large surface area with 5g speeds can swiftly increase security risks. Deploying virtualized and automated security controls can help enforce security rules in their environment. Automated recovery and virtual security controls help companies prepare for 5G security threats in the future.

AI and Machine Learning In Network Management

The dynamic nature of 5G network architecture requires a robust and fast-learning management system. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be powerful 5G network security tools. Therefore, threat identification and detection must be communicated through machine learning and other types of AI to keep pace with the evolving risks.

5G Technology Future from Security Perspective

The 5G security system is an integral part of 5G, and its role is prominent. 5G network creates new services, business models, and opportunities to enter the mobile market.

The development of 5G cellular communications requires an awareness of new opportunities, security threats, and trusted methods that must be considered when designing and planning the future security of the 5G network.

Private 5G Network and network slicing

Businesses that demand a high level of security for national interests, economic development and growth often go for an expensive 5G private network. The 5G private network controls network hardware and software settings, giving organizations extensive security benefits to avoid vulnerabilities. Moreover, the remote network does not require backward compatibility with older network standards like 2G, 3G, and 4G. As more and more businesses are now choosing the expensive but private 5G connection. As it offers the best security for their public safety, competition in the market, or national security interests. An enterprise has full authority over the equipment and software configuration of the connection with a completely private 5G network.  In addition to total governance, a private 5G connection avoids many of the flaws highlighted in the risks section since it is not needed to support earlier standards.

Network slicing is one of the 5G features in all mobile networks and services that share the same infrastructure but are isolated and separated from each other. Network slicing allows the networks to create virtual boundaries for a specific customer or set of devices. Only authorized devices can be connected to the network, limiting attacks' chances. The sliced network only accepts connections from approved devices, greatly restricting this attack vector.

Take your mobile security services to the next level by installing Efani's 5G node from your home and office. The Efani 5G node is a private cellular tower that you can install from your office and home. This 5G node uses your home or work network and offers the best cellular distribution with 5G QoS security, traffic priority and more.

Shared Security

Public mobile networks use a shared security responsibility paradigm when network slicing is utilized on open mobile networks. This is comparable to cloud computing. Where the business handles the application security layer while telecom companies are in charge of protecting the equipment.

Growing threats

There are an unprecedented amount of 5G devices now under development. The improved speed, reduced latency, and device density scaling support (device/areas) open new possibilities for creative 5G networking use cases. As the number of active devices explodes, 5G will soon become a vital infrastructure for business operations and a desirable target for attackers. Hackers may exploit it to use linked devices for nefarious purposes. The development of 5G devices is growing exponentially.

Zero Trust

Zero Trust networks do not depend on any trust presumptions. A Zero Trust network doesn't only rely on checking credentials. It uses numerous procedures and criteria to assess whether a data request is authentic. Integrating digital identity, safe transport, a regulatory system, and continuous review is necessary for building a 5G Zero Trust network.

  • Zero Trust networks create a digital identity trust rating using a special identifier. This could be the X.509 certificate, a SIM identifier, or a newly created identifier specific to the connection in 5G networks. Digital identities govern user access by applying a particular security profile for every identity or user role/class.
  • The 3GPP 5G protocol incorporated advanced encryption techniques and the SUCI standard to protect against listening and meta-data analysis. Using SUCI, meta-data hacks that depend on the user's information, like location tracking, are less likely to occur.
  • The connection and interaction among physical and logical elements in a 5G network are governed by a regulatory framework. It provides access based on credentials, roles, and environmental factors. Sometimes an unidentified or new geo-location may also cause the access to be revoked even though the credentials were accurate.
  • A surveillance system must be installed to determine whether the established policy is operating as planned. When a query dips below the trust criterion or the trust score declines steadily, it can signal network security problems early. It is done by applying trust scoring using several variables such as OS version, geo-location, etc.

A significant worldwide revolution is driving mobile connectivity into every area of our life, from power metres to car fleet monitoring. This includes 5G adoption and the IoT.

It's crucial to incorporate security into each 5G network architecture. Security should be considered from designing to installing and maintaining 5G. As it becomes an essential component of the network controlling our everyday lives.

Also Read: What is Zero Trust Security?

Managed Services for 5G Security

One of the main reasons for introducing 5G technology is to encourage innovation in business to avoid competition and increase revenue. If you plan to include 5G as an integral part of your company's innovation plan, efficient and secure use of technology is the key.

The most-effective approach is to deploy managed security services to support your 5G strategy. Managed security services include next-generation firewalls, secure remote access solutions, and a secure web gateway. 

As important as the security features of 5G are, network operators must also implement those features. The good thing is that 5g is compelling and flexible, but the best way to ensure 5G security is to be ready for security challenges.


Billions of 5G devices will be online in the coming ten years. The advantages of 5G connectivity are apparent: greater bandwidth, more excellent coverage, high speed, and reduced latency at the lowest cost.

Theoretically, 5G should provide more security than earlier generations. However, the realization of every distinct 5G network will significantly impact the claim of safe and more dependable connectivity (in comparison to previous mobile networks). In other words, your vigilance in protecting the 5G networks you build will determine the future of 5G security. It's crucial to comprehend the present possible threats to know how to take preventative measures regarding 5G security. We must be aware of the growth opportunities, risks, and trust mechanisms while developing the 5G future security due to the growth of wireless networks brought about by 5G.

Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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