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IoT and 5G: Is the Smartness of Smart Cities Being Compromised?

20 December 2019 18:00, UTC
IoT and 5G: Is the Smartness of Smart Cities Being Compromised?
By Khalid Durrani

The world is rapidly adapting to the innovative technological advancements. It not only adapts but simultaneously works to improve it as well. Similarly, smart living is the new trend that has emerged in recent years and everyone is diving into it.

The concept of smart cities and homes is becoming popular amongst people, even the ones that are not actively related to technology. Nowadays, people consider ‘smart’ technology as an epitome of modernization and adaptability.

IoT, 5G, and Smart Cities

Internet of Things connects multiple devices to offer a wholesome experience to its users. The technology has enabled its users to be much more efficient in their everyday life. IoT plays a big role in the infrastructure of smart cities as well. Research suggests that IoT connected with the ever-connected and persuasive M2M communication (5G) can revolutionize smart cities. 

The 5G connectivity is much faster than any other M2M communication introduced before like, 4G or 3G. With 5G connectivity, users will receive data in real-time. It will help the police and other authorities to gain accurate insights to incidents and reach the place of incident quicker. 

Lag time, even for a few seconds, is an inconvenience for most people. Then again, with regard to smart cities, this could be a matter of life and death. Given a large amount of data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and 5G, information can be shared on a real-time basis. For example, sharing information about the conditions of roads by smart vehicles, like self-driving cars, which will modify to react accordingly.

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While these applications may not be seen in the short-term, the infrastructure for them is being deployed and will be rolling out over the course of several coming years. The volume of IoT devices is estimated to grow from seven billion to twenty-two billion in 2025. According to McKinsey, one hundred and twenty-seven IoT devices are connected on the internet, every second. The connectivity of IoT through 5G will make a shift in the technological paradigm.

The innovative prospects made possible because of these advancements are tremendous. However, it has also raised security risks. The consistent connectivity of all devices also means that if hacked, someone else can easily control the devices and get access to valuable data. To establish 5G on the grounds of a weak cyber-security foundation is similar to building a sandcastle; it can collapse anytime. It is not only a matter of individual security but national security.

Security concerning IoT and 5G

With advantages also come disadvantages, risks involved with 5G and the vast connectivity network of IoT are immense from the cyber angle. Cyber-attacks can plainly become a matter of life and death.

The after-effect cost of misplaced proactive 5G cyber-security is much higher than the cyber diligence cost. The losses in 2017’s NotPetya attack caused corporate losses amounting to $10 billion. The losses combined at FedEx, Maersk, and Merck exceeded an amount of $1 billion. Even though the 5G networks were not available at the time, nevertheless the attack did depict incursions of high costs.

The networks of 5G are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks in multiple ways, in comparison to its precursors. The network moved from being centralized, hardware switching towards circulated, digital software-defined routing. In the software-defined 5G network, activity is pushed outwards through the network, hence refuting potential control and inspection chokepoint.

Cyber vulnerability is complicated further due to the virtualization of high-level software network functions that were performed formerly by physical applications. The activities are grounded on Internet Protocol language and renowned operating systems; whether used by criminal actors or nation-states. The uniform building block systems and protocols are valued tools for individuals seeking ill.

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Even if there was a lockdown on software susceptibilities in the network, it is still managed by software, that itself is vulnerable. Any attacker who can access and take control of the software that manages the network also has the capacity to take control of the network. It is a huge risk, when it comes to smart cities, as the IoT is linked to a network that is highly vulnerable.

The dramatic bandwidth expansion, which makes the network of 5G conceivable, establishes superfluous attack possibilities. Physically, small cell, short-range, low-cost antennas deployed in urban areas become difficult targets. The cell sites use the capability of 5G’s Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, where manifold information streams apportion the bandwidth within slices; every slice has a varying cyber risk degree. When software lets the network function shift dynamically, the cyber protection should correspondingly be dynamic, instead of being dependent upon a constant solution of the lowest common denominator.

A huge risk of vulnerability is created by connecting tens of billions of IoT smart devices that are easily hackable. Given the technological advancements, numerous countries are planning to establish an inexhaustible and diverse range of activities that are IoT enabled. The devices range from battlefield devices, personal and public safety devices, medical equipment as well as transportation vehicles.

The question in place here is, will IoT devices linked to 5G networks be beneficial or increase the vulnerability of smart cities? In reality, the stance of a future reliant on 5G and various other digital conduits is cyber-defined. It is mandatory for 5G business sectors to know the limitation of consumer-based actions, take responsibility for the enduring risks, and work alongside the governing authorities to consign cross-sector extenuation accountabilities. This strategy can mitigate the risk to some extent.

Good Faith in Security

The technological advancements are endless and so are the security risks. Then again, organizations are attempting to make security a priority in the products they offer. The fifth-generation networks are highly multidimensional and expand cyber-attack vulnerability. There is a need for a redefined cyber strategy for this new network ecosystem. The device, application and network organizations are highly mindful of the susceptibilities and are working in good faith to create an environment which is secure and minimize the risks as much as possible.

About the Author:

Khalid Durrani is the Digital Marketing Manager at Cubix, a leading Software Development Company. He likes to cover the topics related to latest tech, startups, IOT, Artificial intelligence, Blockchain and much more. He tries to humanize technology through inspirational content.

Image courtesy of Microwave journal



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