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5G MEC Security:
How secure is
5G Mobile Edge
Computing?

Author: Sue Poremba

While many focus on the faster speeds that 5G can provide, the true impact of 5G security can depend on how well it merges with some key technologies, primarily cloud computing and mobile edge computing (MEC). Much has been written on the concerns surrounding cloud security, but 5G and 5G MEC security are equally important.

Because MEC is closer to where the data is used and created rather than pushed through data centers, businesses need to consider how 5G may impact the security of data on the edge.

How 5G enables MEC and cloud computing

Cloud computing has taken on a critical role in organizations in recent years, and this became evident in 2020 as the workforce pivoted to remote work. Companies with a strong cloud infrastructure were able to sustain relatively normal business operations with no or few interruptions. As many organizations contemplate remaining fully remote or offering a hybrid work setup, 5G can offer a wider range of solutions for workflow, but it will also necessitate 5G and MEC security considerations.

5G can empower mobile devices to exchange massive quantities of data at higher speeds than ever before. Because of this, IT Business Edge reports, "The cloud and its various architectures (hybrid, on-premises, and public) will be necessary to manage the increase in storage needed for these devices to house the onslaught of data."

MEC, combined with 5G, could take businesses across a variety of industries beyond what cloud computing and 5G can do alone.

In manufacturing, 5G and MEC can improve the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), potentially allowing machines on a factory floor to communicate in real time and alert workers to maintenance issues before they disrupt operations.

Technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) supported by 5G and MEC could offer a richer experience in education, retail, and other industries by providing higher levels of reliability and better bandwidth.

5G mobile edge computing security challenges

5G does come with risks that need to be taken into consideration when looking at mobile edge computing security. According to an October 2020 article by the Department of Homeland Security, vulnerabilities from 5G in critical areas may include:

  • Supply chain
  • Deployment of information and communication technologies
  • Network security
  • Competition and choice in equipment and technologies

These vulnerabilities can be overlooked as organizations make the digital transformation to include 5G for their mobile devices. And while every technology has its own risks, 5G MEC security has one particularly unique challenge to consider: According to TechTarget, "Edge computing is, in most ways, a kind of minimized data center, and minimization can often mean that protection features are stripped out or reduced to lower the cost of the edge facility."

Backup data and storage may not have the same levels of protection offered in a traditional data center. Perimeter defenses must also be reconsidered, as traditional firewalls and other protections may not work on the edge. Since data, including credentials, is stored and in transmission closer to its use, it can be more valuable to hackers because of easier access to assets.

Mitigating risks in 5G MEC security

According to a 2020 study from Analysys Mason, 87% of global respondents say edge computing is a strategic priority, and 5G rollouts are playing a role in driving that strategy. However, 80% are concerned about mobile edge computing 5G security, as well as the vulnerabilities in IoT and mobile cloud applications.

Using zero trust security can help mitigate the risks to edge and cloud computing, particularly when 5G deployment is added. It is helpful to think of the edge as a public cloud and treat data and security on the edge as you would in a public cloud platform.

But it is also good to go back to some of the basics to help close some of the risks predicated by 5G security. Update and patch operating systems and firmware on IoT whenever notified. Keep track of logs and traffic on edge devices to monitor any anomalies. Work closely with cloud providers and other third-party partners on their security measures and add multi-factor authentication and encryption across all devices.

5G offers new opportunities for business operations and can enhance both cloud computing and edge computing. While 5G can offer some built-in security, users may want to rethink and upgrade their approaches to 5G MEC security and 5G cloud security.

Discover more ways to harness the power of edge computing while maintaining strong 5G MEC security parameters.