5G deployment will not only unlock tremendous potential, but will also bring significant new risks, meaning that the risk profile of companies using or providing 5G goods and services will change. Organizations must adapt to an ongoing technological revolution that brings with it many unknowns. Unforeseen consequences, real or imagined, are a hazard – as seen in January 2022, when concerns about the impact of 5G technology on aviation systems disrupted airlines in the US, or in April 2020, when conspiracy theorists destroyed telephone poles in the UK that they have been linked to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Unlike previous generations, the 5G network will be software-defined and “virtualized,” meaning many functions that previously relied on hardware are now virtual software functions, with attendant software-related security issues. As the number of interconnected devices, networks, services, and mobile data increases, so does the potential attack surface.
The interconnectedness of the 5G network with its infrastructure, service providers and users also exacerbates the issue of supply chain security and losses from business interruption should anything go wrong.
“The high degree of dependency in the overall concept from the companies that provide the 5G-enabled technological solutions to those who buy and use them is the crucial point here,” says Oliver Lauxmann, Global Practice Group Leader, Chief Underwriting Office – Liability, at AGCS. “One of the most important characteristics of 5G, with its speed and low latency, is that it offers real-time, 24/7 solutions. So if a break in the chain occurs, it could have a direct impact on the downstream processes, not just for a specific customer, but potentially on a regional or even global scale.”
These solutions could be deployed in mission-critical systems within first-aid services, transportation, healthcare, and power utilities where low latency or interference could have near-instantaneous impacts with catastrophic consequences.