Will we manage to iron out security issues with 5G, before 5G networks become commonplace?

Will we manage to iron out security issues with 5G, before 5G networks become commonplace? (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

5G network security critical to APAC enterprise confidence

It will be especially important for organizations in the Asia Pacific (APAC) to be able to count on 5G security, even as the world grows increasingly reliant on wireless internet networks and devices to communicate and perform online tasks, be it in the workplace or from remote locations.

5G, so-named because it is the fifth-generation mobile network, is a telecommunications technology standard first seen in 2016 that promises higher performance and improved efficiencies in mobile data transfer, reliability, connectivity, and user experience. 

5G rollouts around APAC

5G started a global rollout in late 2018 and has seen an influx of interest in many countries, including emerging economies within the Asia Pacific (APAC) region.

According to ABI Research, not many countries have rolled out 5G in Southeast Asia (SEA), much less in 6G tech. Currently, only operators from the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand have started their 5G coverage and services, and even then, only to select regions within their respective countries, noted Miguel Castaneda, its industry analyst. 

Malaysia has been in talks with several 5G players over the past couple of years and plans to roll out its 5G network in phases by end-2021. Recently, Nokia came a-knocking on Malaysia’s door to offer its 5G services, with an emphasis on its beefed-up security features.

In 2020, 5G was touted as the possible savior for Asian businesses in a post-pandemic APAC, especially when coupled with the increased usage of cloud computing for remote working. Demand for 5G services skyrocketed in early APAC adopter Australia, while carriers worked to upgrade, improve and manage their infrastructure to cope with not just consumer, but critical industry demands posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In terms of widespread commercial rollouts, while China’s 5G dominance reigns over the world (thanks to market-leading service providers like Huawei and ZTE), other nations sought to embark on their own 5G efforts. Aside from China, Korea has even started working on 6G tech because “it’s never too early to explore 6G tech”.

Cybersecurity concerns of 5G 

As popular as the technology is, critical concerns about its security have been brewing since as early as 2018 (and no, it has nothing to do with microchips, aliens, or Covid-19). It is thought that the increased bandwidth offered by 5G coupled with wider access to ultra-fast connections between devices could enable a wider threat surface area for attackers

This increases the ability of hackers to carry out attacks more efficiently, hence users and devices outside of the office will be more vulnerable than ever. These attacks, such as volumetric “distributed denial of service” (or DDoS) attacks, will only grow in frequency and sophistication.

In a virtual briefing held in December last year, Palo Alto Networks VP and regional chief security officer for the Asia Pacific (APAC) and Japan, Sean Duca, commented that 5G cyberattacks are still currently low due to the low availability of 5G. 

However, several 5G proof-of-concept attacks “have forced users to drop from 5G to 4G networks, emphasizing the importance of 4G security even as we enter the age of 5G.” In APAC, South Korea has reportedly begun works on strengthening its 5G security strategy, per the Korea Herald

Last year, TechHQ reported on several 5G security areas that CIOs should consider as companies gear up for the 5G revolution — and without implementation of adequate cybersecurity protection, it could prove very costly for companies. 

The 5G security market is still growing

Thankfully, there is a growing global market for 5G security – to the tune of 44.5% CAGR (2020 – 2026), in fact. Global research firm Market Research Future (MRFM) found that said market is expected to be valued in excess of US$5 billion during the forecast period. 

The MRFM report segmented the 5G security market into components, network component security, architecture, end-user, deployment type, vertical, and region. Solutions include data loss prevention, next-generation firewall, antivirus/antimalware, security gateway, DDoS protection, sandboxing, and others like network access control, vulnerability assessment, and penetration testing for networks.

While North America still dominates the global 5G security market, APAC will see the fastest growthThis rapid growth in APAC is attributed to growing investments in telecommunications infrastructure and digital transformation in Greater Asia and India.