MWC 2018: Digital and Mobile Security in the 5G IoT Era

Mobile World Congress 2018 is upon us and the big news includes the launch of a bunch of new devices, including the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact, Samsung Galaxy S9, Sony Xperia XZ Premium 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S4.

In addition to these and dozens of other devices launching at this year’s event in Barcelona, we are seeing the acceleration of the trend for domestic and industrial smart devices, voice-controlled digital assistants and other internet of things (IoT) enabled smart devices.

Google, for example, is using MWC 2018 as a platform to publicise Google Assistant and the Google Home smart speaker, though one thing we still haven’t heard enough about are the many new security threats and issues surrounding new smart devices, digital assistants and IoT technologies.

Biometric Authentication, 5G Realities and IoT security

Another notable trend at MWC 2018 has been the focus from Samsung and some of the other major mobile players on improved forms of biometric authentication, with Samsung releasing a much-improved Iris Scanner as part of the new Galaxy S9 range.

It’s certainly a really positive move to see this focus on identity authentication at this year’s show, with a notable shift at this year’s event from the hype surrounding virtual and augmented reality and voice-controlled smart homes to far more realistic and practical concerns around security, biometrics and the real-world use cases of superfast 5G networking tech.

Much of the conversation around 5G, of course, is still dominated around how edge computing and low latency in 5G networks will actually translate into valuable and useable services for consumers and businesses alike.

These new 5G use cases dominated the IoT news at MWC 2018, with numerous exhibitors talking up their latest 5G IoT applications and concepts. And almost by default digital security has also become one of the hottest topics in Barcelona this year, as small developers and the major multinational mobile brands alike wake up to the fact that security is of paramount importance across the entire IoT supply chain

Evolving Digital Security for the 5G IoT Era

Firms are realising that their digital security strategy has to evolve at the same pace as the many new developments in the current buzzword bingo card such as 5G IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

Failure to undertake the appropriate due diligence in these new emerging technologies open them up for significant penalties when the inevitable data breaches occur.

In addition to the focus on improving mobile handset security and raising awareness of digital security issues in the smart home, the onus for 5G network level security really needs to shift back to the telecommunications companies themselves.

The 5G Security Challenge for Telecoms

The bottom line is this: the security of 5G networks presents a fundamental challenge to the telecommunications industry at large. Something that the hype machine surrounding 5G at MWC 2018 generally fails to highlight, for obvious reasons!

The promise of 5G-enabled services in smart cities, connected cars and across the burgeoning e-health sector, for example, is clear. Yet the fact that network-wide security and security across the IoT value chain is fundamental to these types of applications and services operating safely is still too often overlooked.

Driverless cars, smart surgery and IoT applications across the manufacturing sector are good examples to cite, where digital security is crucial.

All of which is why we as an industry have to work better together – from digital security specialists through to 5G IoT app and hardware developers through to the multinational telecommunications companies themselves – to ensure that we are doing all we can to meet the security challenges and the many increasingly sophisticated attacks that are sure to come in the 5G era.

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