Cyber Intelligence Initiative

Where 5G, the Internet of Things, and security meet

“The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.”

This quote from Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, describes the vast potential of the internet and the capabilities it possesses. Technology has evolved a great deal since its creation and will continue to evolve. Part of this evolution is 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). We must not only evolve with new advancements in technologies, but better secure them.

The next generation of technology to be developed is 5G. The aim of 5G is radio access technology (RAT), antenna improvements, the use of high frequencies, and redeveloping the architecture of networks. 5G encompasses the voice of 2G, the data of 3G, and the internet of 4G, into a more advanced, interconnected, faster service to match the needs of “smarter” technologies. Unlike 4G, 5G will have the capacity of a reliable connection to thousands of devices at the same time.

The IoT is any device, including everyday objects, that can connect to the internet and share data over a network. As technology increases, the amount of IoT exponentially grows. According to IOT Analytics, in 2016 there were more than 4.7 billion things connected to the internet. In 2021, that number is expected to increase to almost 11.6 billion. The IoT devices range from computers, TVs, and smartphones, to home appliances like microwaves and blenders, to smart cars and smart homes, and so much more.

Because of 5G, IoT will grow. The speed that 5G provides allows for greater innovation and interconnectivity of IoT. IoT is used to improve one’s everyday life. They are our Alexas, Apple watches, self-parking cars, and apps that allow us to control security systems miles away from our homes. The interconnection allows multiple devices to connect to each other, simplifying our life, but also sharing our data.

As more IoT devices are introduced, more personal data is being recorded and saved in the cloud. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will grow as technology continues to grow. The information gathered from our IoT devices is being used in machine learning. Machine learning is a type of AI that helps computers “learn” without someone programming them. When we use devices like Alexa and other “smart” technologies, we are allowing for our voices and habits to aid in machine learning.

IoT is expanding to larger industries like auto and the development of “smart” cities. 5G will affect the auto industry. New cars will be able to analyze our data and connect to other IoT devices. We see this with Bluetooth for calling, music, and GPS. IoT is also affecting the development of “smart” cities.  Businesses and cities are starting to adopt smart technologies to save time and money. With this innovation and interconnectivity of IoT due to 5G, security needs to be part of the discussion.

Faster networks mean smart devices can gather, analyze, and manage our data like never before. We need to protect our devices, homes, and businesses better as 5G and IoT expand. Looking forward, our routers and new legislation have come into the security discussion. Routers act as an entry point for the internet in any given household or business. Although connected devices may not be able to be protected, the routers can. 5G devices connect to routers now, but it is expected that they will be able to connect directly to the 5G network in the future, which makes them more vulnerable and susceptible to penetration.

The need for security is paramount. As 5G is introduced by more companies and IoT grows exponentially, the technological future is unknown.

How can we protect and secure ourselves with this vast uncertainty? Laws and regulations need to be introduced when it comes to the safety of the internet for all users. 5G influences how capable and powerful IoT can be. The powerfulness of both 5G and IoT fosters the need for security.


Please note that the views expressed by our faculty, research fellows, students, alumni, interns, and guest lecturers do not necessarily reflect the views of The Institute of World Politics.