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5G cyber conundrum

The UK government is clamping down on cyberthreats with the new Telecommunications Security Bill. As the Government looks to diversify the UK’s 5G market, addressing potential risks to ensure a resilient record is an absolute priority, writes Fiona Boyd, pictured, Head of Enterprise and Cyber Security at Fujitsu.

The increasing remote use of technology, particularly through home working, has left many of our devices more vulnerable to cyberattacks, and has further highlighted the need for this regulation.

As a result of the bill, the government will have more power to remove high-risk vendors from the marketplace. Ofcom will also monitor the telecom’s security, and those who infringe on the new laws will find themselves with a hefty fine of up to 10pc of their turnover, and £100,000 per day for any further contravention. So what will this mean for telecommunication companies? First and foremost, it will require businesses to be more stringent on the technology used for 5G at phone masts and telephone exchanges.

While many vendors have nothing to worry about aside from a few tweaks, the big fine understandably adds pressure to the situation. And telecommunications companies will need to make doubly sure that they’re adhering to the new regulations.

But I truly believe it’s a positive step for telecommunications companies – it’s giving the clarity we all need to protect ourselves and our businesses from ever-rising cyber attacks. And it’s a North Star we can all cling onto as we rejig our strategies for the next generation of digitally transformed telecommunications.

5G has a plethora of potential because of its ability to connect everything. Right now, whole cities are being reimagined to be smarter and safer, with innovations such as automated driving technology, hospital waiting rooms with no waiting times, and personalised manufacturing – all of which are enabled by 5G.

However, given the competitive nature of technology businesses, I fear that we’ll start to see a stream of IoT and 5G devices rushed to market, which aren’t subject to the official security standards.

Consumers will end up bearing the brunt of this risk. At the moment, we’re using connected devices throughout our homes, and in our cars. They monitor even those most intimate details of our lives, from shopping lists to healthcare.

In other words, it’s a goldmine for hackers. Cyber-attackers will easily use this sensitive information to capitalise, which not only puts your customers at direct risk, but your business too. And I can guarantee there are cyber-attackers behind their keyboards this very moment, looking to access a vulnerable network.

We all want to be at the forefront of producing 5G-related infrastructure for our customers – not only to meet their needs but to also remain attractive and innovative. However, this has to be balanced with protection, if we fail to safeguard our customers then any competitive edge gain will be reversed anyhow.

This is the conundrum facing the telecoms industry as we speak.

In my mind, and I hope in any responsible telecoms providers’ mind, a customer’s cyber safety is not worth risking, no matter how tempting getting ahead might be. So what’s the best way to approach the conundrum? Firstly, rather than looking upon a government legislation as a hindrance, approach it as a positive.

Even without the leadership which the Government is showing in this space, the telecommunications landscape, like most industries, is having to digitally transform. It’s what consumers expect, it’s what consumers want, and it’s the only way to achieve the outcomes necessary to stay competitive.

However, moving through this change can be overwhelming because there’s a lot to consider. And this is where I believe the new bill can provide some guidance.

So, before using public networks to facilitate 5G, revisit your security strategy. Will it be able to hold up, keep up and protect you and your customers from evolving cyberattacks?

Aim for a strategy that focuses on providing foresight through predictive tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. As I’ve mentioned above, cyber-attackers are constantly looking for new ways to infiltrate networks, so you also need to make sure that the tools you apply are continuously monitoring your networks as you roll out 5G connection. It may be time consuming to reform your security strategy to roll out 5G, especially when regulations loom over your head.

However, this is a long-term investment – cybersecurity is only going to become more important in the UK. Especially when we consider that telecommunications is now at the foundation of hybrid and remote working environments that are planned to stay beyond the pandemic.

My advice for telecommunication businesses is: don’t ruin all that 5G has to offer with poor cybersecurity. Plan ahead for victory, not your downfall.


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