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The Impacts of 5G on National Security

Malachi Walker

The Impacts of 5G on National Security

The recent innovations surrounding 5G are making headlines both inside and outside of the technology industry. The knowledge of business owners and consumers alike remains at the surface level. On Wednesday, January 15, Venable hosted a panel of nonprofit and nonpartisan speakers to discuss 5G on a deeper level, including the impacts on National Security. The panel was hosted by Venable's Managing Director of Cybersecurity, Ari Schwartz.

The panel was joined by Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Director of Strategic Technology, Timothy Grayson; Senior Strategy Executive at the U.S Secretary of the Airforce's office of Commercial and Economic Analysis, Dwayne Florenzi; and Airforce Chief Information Technology Officer, Office of Deputy Chief Information, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Konieczy

5G and DARPA

Grayson, who caveated that his personal experience does not reflect the collective viewpoint of DARPA, began by stating that the two most attention-grabbing points of 5G are Low Latency and Virtualization.

  1. Low latency is used much less than high data rates

  2. Virtualization is also a standalone opportunity for the tactical application of 5G

Grayson elaborated by emphasizing the need of military networks for an open-ended way for communication that creates a virtual link between tactical equipment. 5G could be the fabric to fill that gap. Low Latency and Virtualization can be implemented when changes are made to its core. The issue, however, lies in who has the technology standards and market leadership for the operation of 5G. DARPA's potential lies in technology leadership, opening up the door for public private partnerships, and increasing competitiveness.

4G vs 5G

According to Dwayne Florenzie, "the answer is both." Florenzie continues by saying that there are three parts of 5G, but only currently exists as the expansion of 4G capabilities. What Florenzie wanted the audience to focus on was the other two parts of 5G; Internet of Things and again, Low Latency. "That is where 5G is not here yet."

When discussing how important 5G will be, and where its potential exceeds that of 4G, Florenzie dove deep on the technology. 4G was described as a vehicle reading signals for every 4ft that it moved, while 5G is a vehicle reading signals for every 4 inches moved. 4G was described as connecting mobile phones, whereas 5G could connect a wide array of technology. With more connections comes more capabilities, but also vulnerabilities.

5G and the Military

Frank Konieczny commented on the efforts the United States Air Force has taken towards implementing 5G on bases around the world. They are looking to partner with commercial companies to implement projects and want to keep 5G in control of the market, not the government. "We are not in the business of manufacturing networks," said Konieczny, while admitting that it was taking a long time to implement 5G across these bases due to policy issues, FAA 21, Environmental Impacts, and location of radios.

The good news about the slow implementation is that it is being done with security in mind. He is looking at ways to secure IoT devices and signals across them. "The simple errors are always the ones that kill us it's not the complex ones," stated Konieczny. "The airforce is everywhere and we have to have communications are secure." With the potential 5G has on National Security, Konieczny stresses that it should be standard to secure all endpoints and put alternate means of communication in place as 5G is implemented.

5G and National Security takeaways

Venable's impactful and informative panel gave business owners, the federal government, and the American public plenty to think about regarding 5G. We need to pay more attention to low latency; the ability of 5G networks to process rapidly changing data in near-real time. 5G must be built with security in scale in mind. The more capabilities and networked opened by 5G the more opportunities cyber attackers have at compromising a network. If America wants to be a big player in 5G, it must be willing to make the investment in personnel, technology, and security.