Security in 5G Wireless Communication Technologies

By: A. Khan, K. T. Chui, C. Hsu

Acquiring a weltanschauung conceived by Admiral Arleigh Burke from World War II, “Speed is important, but speed without a good targeting solution can be disastrous” [1].

The evolution and advancements of fifth-generation (5G) wireless communication are gaining traction, with the goal of connecting nearly every element of life over the network at considerably greater speeds, with extremely low latency and ubiquitous connection. Owing to its critical significance in our daily lives, the privacy and security of the customers, gadgets, and applications must be a high priority. The 5G wireless networks will deliver exceptionally high data speeds and bandwidth and considerably enhanced Quality of Services (QoS) and ultra-low latencies. In addition to mobile devices, 5G will enable ultra-reliable and inexpensive internet connectivity to a vast number of gadgets that are linked with Machine-to-Machine communication (M2M), Internet of Things (IoT), and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPSs). Consequently, 5G is not only an up-gradation to 4G, as one might imagine, but an implementation of innovative and emerging technologies to satisfy the progressively increasing requirements of network bandwidth, cutting-edge applications, and prevailing and forthcoming Embedded devices. Table 1 illustrates some of the significant security threats and mechanisms to tackle those vulnerabilities that were present in previous wireless communication generations (1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G);

Table 1: Security Threats and Mechanism to Tackle Vulnerabilities in Existing Generations

GenerationsSecurity ThreatsMechanism to Tackle Vulnerabilities
1GEavesdropping, Interception of callsNo Security Mechanism
2GSpamming, One Way Authentication, Fake Base StationsEncryption Based Protection, Authentication
3GEncryption Key Security, IP Traffic VulnerabilitiesAuthentication and Key Agreement (AKA), Two Way Authentication
4GDoS/ DDoS Attacks, Base Transceiver Station Security (BTS), Not Suitable for Cutting Edge Technologies.New Encrypted AKA trust mechanism are implemented, Non-3G Partnership Projects (3GPP) launched

Fifth-generation (5G) technology aims to create a digital community that requires high service availability and security. Through the use of a range of technologies such as Cloud Computing, Software Defined Networks (SDN), and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) that address growing user needs while remaining within the constraints of capital and operational expenditures (CapEx. & OpEx. ).

Cloud Computing brings technologically diverse systems into a single domain; operators may easily manage data, services, and applications with minimal capital expenditure and operating expenditure (Capex/Opex). On the one hand, SDN promotes networking innovation through abstraction and programmability, while on the other hand, logically centralized network control simplifies network management. NFV reduces the requirement for function or service-specific hardware by allowing diverse network functions to be placed in different network perimeters. SDN and NFV operate together to enhance network flexibility, optimize network operations and administration, and break down merchant copyright barriers. Figure 1 implies the Security threat landscape in 5G networks.

Security in 5G Wireless Communication Technologies
Figure 1: Security threat landscape in 5G networks [2]

According to Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN), the fifth generation wireless communication system requires robust security architectures that will lead to hassle-free delivery of applications, high bandwidth, low latency, and many more perks. Here some of the critical security challenges are highlighted in the literature by Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) [3]:

  1. Flash Traffic: The number of end-user devices is expected to increase rapidly in 5G, causing substantial changes in network traffic patterns, either unintentionally or maliciously. As a result, 5G systems must be able to handle significant fluctuations in traffic effectively and deliver flexibility whenever such spikes arise while retaining a high standard of functionality.
  2. Security of Radio Encryption Keys: The radio interface encryption keys are created in the home network and transferred to the visiting network across vulnerable channels in prior network designs, including 4G, resulting in an obvious point of vulnerability. As a result, it is advised that encryption keys be protected beforehand or that they not be transmitted via vulnerable connections like SS7/DIAMETER.
  3. User Data Morality: Some signaling communications are protected in 3G and 4G systems, but the user data plane does not have cryptographic integrity protection. Hence, it is advisable to secure the transport and application layer.
  4. Authorized Network Security:  The problem is that such limitations weaken system-level security hypotheses and cannot be entirely removed. If there are several operators, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that one operator suffers because of insufficient security measures taken by the others. We, therefore, suggest that 5G be required to have some degree of security once a thorough analysis has been conducted to identify the most critical security problems.
  5. DoS Attacks: A denial-of-service attack (DoS) is a cyber-attack that prevents legitimate users from retrieving gadgets or other network resources. It’s usually done by sending repeated requests to the targeted devices or network resources, making it extremely difficult or inconvenient for some or all legitimate users to utilize them.


[1]  Hughes, W. (2014). Fleet tactics and coastal combat. Naval Institute Press.

[2]  Ahmad, I., Shahabuddin, S., Kumar, T., Okwuibe, J., Gurtov, A., & Ylianttila, M. (2019). Security for 5G and beyondIEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials21(4), 3682-3722.

[3]  Ahmad, I., Kumar, T., Liyanage, M., Okwuibe, J., Ylianttila, M., & Gurtov, A. (2018). Overview of 5G security challenges and solutions Communications Standards Magazine2(1), 36-43.

Cite this article:

A. Khan, K. T. Chui, C. Hsu (2021), Security in 5G Wireless Communication Technologies, Insights2Techinfo, pp.1

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