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Here's why you need to be more vigilant about cyberattacks on your 5G-connected devices.

5G is the most recent major innovation in cellular data coverage technology, transitioning the functionalities of cellular networks to an almost entirely software-based infrastructure. According to Brookings, a public policy institution in Washington, D.C., “5G will be a physical overhaul of our essential networks that will have a decades-long impact.” While a transition to a soft infrastructure has obvious advantages for cellular device users across the U.S., the transition also creates new cyber-vulnerabilities. Brookings identifies five ways in which the widespread introduction of 5G networks expands the risk of a cyber attack:

  1. Previous network designs routed signals through physical choke points, allowing for more complete inspection and control over malicious action. 5G bypasses these physical choke points using a web of digital routers, mitigating providers’ ability to cut off harmful signals before they spread through the network. 

  2. High level network functions previously performed by physical appliances are instead encoded using well known Internet Protocol languages and operating systems. Hackers’ past success in manipulating Internet Protocol suggests that 5G’s increased reliance relative to past iterations of cellular networks may be dangerous. 

  3. In 5G networks, software not only comprises but also manages the network. Since almost any software can theoretically be hacked, 5G’s reliance on software to prevent widespread attacks gives cyber criminals an opportunity to hack both the network and the network manager. 

  4. 5G’s expanded bandwidth makes it cheaper and easier for hackers to obtain and utilize technology necessary to attack the network. Criminals can set up small, low-power antennae that are far weaker than what would have been required to communicate with previous iterations of cell networks on a large scale. 

  5. The hundreds of millions of devices that will connect to 5G networks provide myriad access points to the network. The more connected our technology becomes, the more ways hackers can get into more devices. 

As individual smartphone users, it’s impossible to eliminate these risks associated with 5G’s new digital network infrastructure. What you can do is increase your alertness when using smart devices connected to 5G networks. As cellular networks become more vulnerable, cyber criminals will make more attempts to hack into those networks. Be vigilant and aware of potentially suspicious activity on your device or in any important financial and health accounts. Follow the tips in this article to protect your smart devices as carefully as possible

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