5G technology is developing within the shipping industry with many ports installing 5G networks for improved operations. In May's Phish and Ships issue, Be Cyber Aware At Sea discusses the challenges of cyber risk arising and the importance of 5G as one of the biggest technological advance.
Ultimately, 5G is the latest (fifth) generation wireless technology for digital cellular networks that will eventually replace - or at least augment, your 4G LTE connection to access the internet and to stay in communication with others, but with exponentially faster download and upload speeds.
Yet, despite the advantages of technology, it is stated that 5G poses greater security concerns, as it creates many new opportunities for hackers and cybercrime.
"As we adopt so many more devices and connections into our lives, we need to be investing as much in cyber security and it's also critical to have security measures in place for both business and personal data."
In addition, a recent research conducted by Purdue University and the University of Iowa discovered 11 vulnerabilities in the next generation cellular networks. The threats found by the researchers enable real time location tracking and surveillance as well as the ability to spoof emergency alerts to trigger panic. This could include mass scale ‘May Day’ calls and other critical information flows in shipping.
Therefore, Phish and Ships provided five important ways in which 5G networks are more susceptible to cyber attacks than their predecessors, off the back of both the above-mentioned university findings and according to a 2019 Brookings report called "Why 5G requires new approaches to cybersecurity".
#1 The communication network has moved mostly away from hardware that is fixed in one physical place - with switches and routers, to software on a computer which is distributed openly. This is more cost effective, but it opens the network up to attack from multiple places which might not all be protected as the “old” hardware would have been.
#2 The 5G network is now managed by software - often early generation artificial intelligence, that itself can be vulnerable. That means an attacker that gains control of the software managing the network can also control the network.
#3 Physically, low-cost, short range, small-cell antennas deployed throughout urban areas become new hard targets.
#4 One vulnerability that was supposed to be fixed in 5G was the threat from “stingrays”, which present themselves as a cell tower to spy on users. However, researchers found that these attacks were still possible in 5G.
#5 The vulnerability created by attaching tens of billions of hackable smart devices to the network colloquially referred to as IoT (Internet of Things).