The emergence of 5G networks will allow up to 100 times faster communications, create new possibilities for the Internet of Things, increase capabilities for data processing and analysis, and enhance connectivity between users and between devices. 5G networks promise lower latency—the time it takes to send and receive a data packet—and greater bandwidth, allowing the networks to hold more connected devices and carry more data than 4G networks.
The promises for 5G permeate every industry, including homeland security.
At this year’s Homeland Security & Defense Forum (HSDF) Border Security Symposium, there was a pointed focus on 5G’s relevance to border security. Peraton’s Senior Director of Advanced Mission Capabilities, Mark Adams, introduced a 5G panel discussion, noting, “Homeland security lends itself well to wireless Internet of Things connectivity. For example, using an integrated networks of AI security cameras and other sensors agents could monitor a huge swath of the country, essentially creating an entire coast to coast intelligent border security system.”
With faster and more reliable communication, border agents could coordinate more efficiently. Lower latency could also improve security technologies for interconnected unmanned vehicles and surveillance systems. Receiving more information at faster speeds, along with the ability to process and analyze that information more quickly, would provide border agents with better situational awareness and an enhanced ability to detect and respond to threats.
U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz has spent decades supporting border security efforts and has seen the evolution of technology in aiding those efforts. “When we think about 5G and where we’re going, the sky’s the limit and I’m really excited,” said Ortiz.
“5G levels the playing field so we can focus attention on areas with highest threat,” Ortiz explained, highlighting the need for visibility, worker safety, agility, mobility, and connectivity, particularly in remote areas of the border.
Since a 5G network is largely virtualized and software-driven, cybersecurity protocols will be critical to securing 5G assets. “5G demands a whole of government approach to make sure the opportunities are leveraged, and the risk management challenges are mitigated,” said Daniel Kroese, Deputy Assistant Director at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency’s (CISA) National Risk Management Center. CISA is working to predict threats to 5G to get ahead of the risks and manage them.
“We have to mature the use cases so that when 5G is implemented on the border with thermal imaging and autonomous vehicles, we understand the unique characteristics and aspects of those 5G deployments in terms of the spectrum, low latency considerations, and can make sure the promise of 5G is realized,” said Kroese.
Travis Russell, director of cybersecurity at Oracle Communications, echoed the security concerns. “We are inheriting all the vulnerabilities that come from the Internet because 5G is built on Internet technologies,” Russell explained. “Now we have to think about a completely different threat vector, which introduces a different mindset in industry.”
“Everyone assumes that 5G is the next evolution of wireless technology and in reality, 5G is such a departure from anything we’ve ever done in the cellular industry,” Russell said. And because 5G is not the direct next step from 4G, “5G does not care if you use cellular or satellite or Wi-Fi or broadband or fiber optics. The value of 5G is not in the network connectivity but the ability to use any access fiber to reach that network.”