4G, 5G and Cybersecurity: A Closer Look
In this ever-modernizing age, wireless connections and smart devices are constantly evolving. Mobile networks are now capable of operating at lightning-fast speeds, which paves the way for some of the most advanced technology the world has ever seen — next-generation phones and tablets, self-driving cars and even smart appliances are becoming more available to the public every day. These devices come with a need for ultra-supportive networks that can handle demanding workloads.
4G completely revolutionized worldwide communication. Developed during the rise of smartphones and wireless networking, 4G LTE connections made it faster and easier to call and text, watch videos, play games and browse the internet. It was leagues ahead of older networks, operating nearly 500 times faster than 3G. Although there’s no questioning its speed and power, even 4G isn’t fully capable of handling the billions of wireless devices that are expected to be in use by 2020.
That’s where 5G comes into play. The latest and greatest iteration of wireless bandwidth yet, 5G is even more of a game-changer than its predecessors — it’s faster, more efficient and able to connect countless devices that 3G and 4G bandwidths just can’t handle.
The emergence of 5G may be impressive, but it leaves users with many questions: How safe is 5G? What makes it so much better than older bandwidths? What are the real differences between 4G and 5G?
Let’s compare 4G to 5G-advantages and disadvantages. Pros and cons exist within both, and it’s important to be informed about your network.
Speed Is Key
Naturally, the biggest distinction between 4G and 5G is how fast each bandwidth operates. Both are much faster than older wireless networks, but 5G is definitely more capable than 4G for multiple reasons.
First and foremost, 5G can transfer data faster. The average speed of a 4G network is around 150 megabytes per second, which is more than enough to perform a 250-megabyte software update in less than 15 seconds. 5G is able to process information at up to 400 megabytes per second. This means downloading the same software update would take less than 6 seconds. Some networks can start at speeds even faster than this, reaching up to 2 gigabits per second.
There’s also reduced latency with 5G. Latency describes the time it takes for information to travel from one device to another. For example, if you clicked the button to download a file from the internet and it didn’t start for another 5 seconds, your network experienced 5 seconds of latency. Thankfully, the average latency for 4G is around 50 milliseconds. 5G network latency is even lower, lasting only about 10 milliseconds.
While both bandwidths offer less than a second of latency, newer wireless devices need as little delay between data transfers as possible. Where could this make a difference, you ask?
- In your driverless car, where milliseconds can mean the difference between a normal work commute and a fatal accident
- In your home security system, which needs to be able to alert you at the first sign of danger
- In your work conference calls, where important decisions demand clear communication at all times
- In your video chats, where you want to see and hear everything in real-time
Safety Is Everything
It’s no surprise that 5G is superior to older networks in speed and latency, but this doesn’t mean its without drawbacks. In fact, security has been a frequent concern when it comes to 5G networks — many users are concerned that it doesn’t offer the same protection as 4G networks, and hackers have found several methods to breach 5G security measures.
4G has been widespread since the late 2000s, so network providers have had nearly two decades to research and perfect its cybersecurity. 2G and 3G networks laid a great foundation for security that 4G has expanded upon. Any data that is transferred through this type of connection is encrypted, making it inaccessible for anyone other than its intended receiver. 4G signal transfers are also significantly more narrow, which make them harder to be intercepted.
Many analyses have shown that 4G does have some weak security points that could be exploited, but doing so would take a lot of time and resources. Furthermore, hackers who are capable of tapping into a 4G network are most likely to carry out cyberattacks on high-profile targets like celebrities and politicians. In short, 4G is extremely safe for the average wireless user.
5G, on the other hand, was only made available in 2019 — it has an even wider range of data encryption than 4G but also transfers significantly larger amounts of information at a time than older bandwidths. The larger the data transfer, the more vulnerable it is to hackers and interceptors.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest issues with 5G security is that any old cybersecurity flaws from 3G and 4G networks have gone unaddressed, causing them to arise in newer 5G networks. While the older bandwidths were fairly safe even in spite of these flaws, high-volume data transfers leave 5G more vulnerable to being exploited. There are security measures in place to help combat this, one of the most common being ‘network slicing’ — this is when large networks are broken down into smaller ones, which makes it easier to manage and protect them from threats.
However, hackers have found ways to get around new age cybersecurity features. One method causes mobile users to connect to ‘stingray’ devices, which are disguised as authenticated cell towers. Once they’ve connected to these devices, hackers can tap into personal information, bank accounts and even users’ locations.
This day and age, the world is more connected than ever before. Devices are smarter, networks are faster and technology is readily available all over the globe. While the latest generation of connectivity is much faster and more efficient than its predecessors, it’s wise to stay informed on the potential dangers that come with it. With every advancement in technology, cyber threats become more prevalent, but every generation needs to start somewhere. If 4G was capable of providing safe and powerful connectivity to the world over time, it’s fair to say that the future holds great possibilities for 5G networks.