With 5G opening the door to a whole host of new, ambitious technologies, network operators must ensure that they invest sufficiently in securing their 5G infrastructure or risk catastrophic consequences

Operators must do more to ensure the security of their networks in the run up to the launch of 5G, according to industry experts.

Speaking exclusively to journalists at a pre-Mobile World Congress briefing in London this week, Steve Buck, product director at Evolved Intelligence, said that the industry needed to open its eyes to the potential disaster that unsecured 5G networks could bring. 

"For 5G, security is even more fundamental [than it was for previous generations]. You simply can’t be talking about driverless cars, smart surgery and IoT technology, without talking about the security side of things," he said. 

The 3GPP and the GSMA are currently in the process of defining the standards for its SEPP box – a device that will act as a gatekeeper for 5G networks, providing a bedrock upon which network security is built. The technology is still 12-18 months from being finalised, but Buck emphasised the importance of waiting for SEPP before 5G networks are connected. 

"It’s essential. We need to plan now because security cannot be retrofitted," he said. 

Despite this warning, Buck believes that operators will rush out 5G services before SEPP is available, leaving their networks open to a whole host of pernicious attacks. 

"Unfortunately, bragging rights and commercials overcome security every time – or at least they have done with the launch of every other generation we’ve witnessed," said Buck.  

Buck argues that security for 5G networks needs to be that much higher than previous generations because of the scale of the applications that will be being used. For example, an unsecured 4G network means that someone could potentially steal your private information or extort money from your bank account. Unsecured 5G networks could open the door for malicious interference on a new scale, with driverless cars and medical advances such as remotely monitored smart kidneys and bio implants, ripe for attack. 

"If someone hacks into your bank account that’s bad enough, but consider the implications if someone could hack into your smart kidney," he added.   


Steve Buck will be taking part in the "5G reality check" conference session at Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona.