8 ways 5G mobile networks will change IoT security, and how to prepare

Every internet of things security issue will be greatly magnified in a 5G environment. Address these eight areas before you deploy your own.

5G mobile wireless network technology
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Super-fast 5G mobile networks promise to link not only people more efficiently, but also allow for greater interconnectivity and control of machines, objects and devices. Its high Gbps data transfer rates, low latency and high capacity will be a boon to consumers and businesses alike. That comes with significant new security risks, as one early adopter is learning.

Global home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool has already begun the process of rolling out 5G for one of its factories. The company is using IoT devices for predictive maintenance, environmental controls, process monitoring using a traditional local area WiFI network, but 5G will allow the company to do something that is impossible with WiFi: deploy autonomous forklifts and other vehicles.

"My factories have a lot of metal," says Douglas Barnes, Whirlpool's North American regional IT and OT manufacturing infrastructure applications manager. "WiFi reflects off metal. Even if I went with a mesh WiFi in the factory, we've got too much metal. But 5G goes through walls, and it doesn't reflect off metal."

That means that once 5G is in place on the factory floor, Whirlpool can make dramatic changes, he says. "This will allow us to go to truly autonomous vehicles throughout the entire plant, for maintenance, for delivery, for everything that supports the manufacturing operations. That business case carries so much weight and so much in cost savings. The payback for 5G is very favorable."

The company has already done the testing to make sure that the autonomous vehicles will work, he says. Capital will be allocated this month, and the vehicles should be running on 5G by the end of this year. "If we make it work, the business case for the autonomous vehicles pays for everything else," he says.

Barnes is keenly aware of the cybersecurity problems that IoT already creates for enterprises, and the extent to which all those problems will be amplified by the switch to 5G. Whirlpool worked with its 5G partner AT&T to address those concerns. "We fight those battles every day," he says. "So, before we even started, the first thing we talked about with AT&T was how it was going to be a secured network."

Below are seven key areas that companies like Whirlpool need to consider when they create their 5G implementation plans.

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