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The Expert View: how financial services can benefit from 5G in a secure way

PrivateLTE/5G is coming, and businesses need to be prepared to ensure they can reap the rewards, as well as mitigate the risks, that the new technology brings. A Business Reporter Breakfast Briefing gathered executives from across the financial services industry to discuss the implications of Private LTE/5G for their business in Benelux. 


John Crawford, General Manager International 5G of Verizon, told attendees at the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam that the World Economic Forum expects 5G capabilities to be implemented by 2025.


But even in two years’ time, things will have changed a lot, Crawford said, and the time for companies to decide if they are going to take advantage of its transformational potential is now. He outlined how Verizon was uniquely positioned to roll out Private LTE/5G services quickly and the international business’s focus on building Private LTE/5G services for business customers.


Being globally first to market after many years of multi-billion-dollar investments into the technology has given Verizon insight and understanding that many customers are looking to leverage.  Verizon has also opened multiple 5G labs where customers, partners and solutions companies have been developing capabilities building them on Verizon’s Private LTE/5G network resulting in a growing portfolio of partners and solutions Verizon is bringing to future customers.


5G and security


The effect on cyber-security by the introduction of 5G was at the top of the list of concerns for many attendees. These ranged from the vulnerabilities that more speed, and thus more data, create, to the threat of attacks from more sophisticated, possibly state-sponsored actors.


Financially motivated attackers remain the biggest threat, a Verizon security expert explained, with the average data breach costing between $4 million and $8 million. These attacks are fast – it can take mere minutes between security being compromised and a data breach occurring. Current attacks include DDoS attacks, ransomware and e-mails to accounts departments posing as a company’s CEO requesting a transfer of funds. A banking executive raised concerns about how to manage incidents as the number of devices that are connected increases due to 5G.


An advantage is that 5G is designed to be inherently more secure. Right now, 4G only encrypts data packages, while 5G includes encryption of user identity and location. Furthermore, future 5G networks can be sliced. Companies can thus use a dedicated slice of a public 5G network, but this would mean waiting for the infrastructure to be established, when even 4G has not reached everywhere yet. Alternatively, it is possible to create a Private network, which allows businesses to roll out 5G across a specific area, say a plant, or an office location. It is possible to add an additional layer of security by slicing the Private network, using a certain slice for nominated devices to connect, for example, while other parts of the network can be reserved for corporate devices or solutions.


A layered approach is key to ensuring security, it was emphasised. Such layering could include the deployment of a software-defined network (SDN) operating underneath to handle the increased amount of data that 5G implementation will generate. The implementation of a firewall in the form of a software-defined perimeter (SDP), a technology that has so far proven extremely difficult to hack, further reduces the attack surface available to bad actors.


Dream big


The huge increases in speed and decreases in latency that Private LTE/5G brings will allow for almost limitless possibilities. It’s arguable that the internet of things (IoT) has yet to really deliver, but with Private LTE/5G IOT is expected to finally realise its possibilities.


We are only really limited by our imaginations, with prospects ranging from virtual stores and bank branches to 3D modelling for surgeons, Crawford said.  We are seeing customers who are experiencing the potential that Private LTE/5G technology delivers coming back with their own solutions and use cases.  We’re expecting an exciting time in the next 12 to 24 months with many new and emerging applications being developed, and many of these are being tested and showcased in the Verizon 5G Labs, he added.


The changes 5G will bring, as with the ongoing transfer to the cloud, are coming anyway, said one finance executive, who emphasised that it is thus better to adapt now. It will pay to be on the cutting edge and move as fast as possible, both in adapting 5G and ensuring proper security measures are in place.

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