The Impact of AI and 5G in Cyber Security
Eniko Toth

The Impact of AI and 5G in Cyber Security

Critical Issues for Companies Looking to Get On Board the 5G, AI Revolution

As companies brace themselves for the ongoing fourth industrial revolution, cybersecurity remains high on the agenda. Executives are wary about the challenges that accompany emerging major technologies such as 5G, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) is widely regarded as a cyber-security life line.

The connectivity landscape is becoming more intricate. Networks carry an endless array of connected devices, and companies reckon cybersecurity issues may become exasperated as a result. They’ll need to protect more devices and a wider network infrastructure from malicious attackers.

AT&T’s ninth Annual Cybersecurity Insights Report interviewed over 700 cybersecurity experts across several markets. The report found that 72.5% of surveyed professionals rate their level of concern over 5G security as either high or medium high.


According to an AT&T report, 42% of cybersecurity professionals are highly concerned about 5G security, and an additional 31% rate their concern as medium-high.

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For one, the security mechanism of IoT devices operating via 5G networks are largely the same used in current 4G networks. This means there’s basically no vast security overhaul attending the rollout of 5G. To boot, the virtualization of 5G network infrastructures through containerized workloads might make networks look more attractive to attackers.

Questions that might arise in the light of this realization include, “What security patching strategy is best for our network infrastructure?” “How do we secure our firmware in our IoT device network?”, etc.

But while many security questions surround the 5G rollout, companies are finding safety in AI applications. A Capegemini report found that 61% of enterprise executives believe attempted cyberattacks can’t be detected without AI. Additionally, 48% say their AI cyber security budgets will increase in 2020 by an average of 29%.

A Capegemini report breaks down the cybersecurity areas where organizations utilize AI.

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But in reality, AI applications are not immune from attack. They, too, present cybersecurity challenges that must be addressed, especially in the face of the many benefits of an AI-5G combination. In this article, we discuss the intersection between 5G and AI, as well as their accompanying pros and cons to help answer these important questions.

The intersection between 5G, AI, and network infrastructures

Both 5G and AI will power an unprecedented wave of possibilities for applications in a vast array of industries. Here’s a quick look at some of the many potential benefits of a 5G-AI pair:

  • 5G is poised to amp up the current processing power of AI, opening the door to unlimited possibilities. This increase in AI processing power means the technology’s capacities could be developed to near-human levels -- and beyond.
  • 5G will also fast-track the integration of AI with other technologies for innovation and growth. This fusion will help businesses ramp up their efficiency, service delivery, customer care, and human resource management.
  • Most importantly, the combination of these emerging technologies will help companies further harness the power of the internet for ecommerce, consumer data collection, consumer behavior analytics, data fitting, etc. With its low latency and low energy consumption, 5G will allow businesses to access the benefits of highly reliable technological innovations cost-effectively.

But these great expectations must be tempered in light of potential security threats. Although AI is currently being hailed as a security blanket, the technology can also be used as a cyberattack weapon. Combined with 5G, the security risks might be even more apparent.

The inherent security risks of 5G, and the AI double-edged sword

Businesses reckon that if they don’t use AI to beef up their cybersecurity, they may fall victim to malicious attackers who use AI against them.

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A survey by Information Risk Management (IRM) carried out this year polled senior cybersecurity and risk management executives at 50 global companies across 7 major industries including energy, transport, finance, and pharmaceuticals. There, 86% of the respondents believed 5G implementation will expose their companies to unprecedented risks, echoing the AT&T findings we mentioned earlier.

The report finds the following to be the cause for their concern:

  • Acceleration of 5G to market;
  • The lack of security considerations;
  • The integration of 5G exposes not only wireless networks, but virtualized and cloud-based infrastructures to greater security risks.

In line with other surveys, the IRM respondents look to AI to save the day. Eighty-six percent of them believe AI will be critical to the success of the long-term cybersecurity strategies that underpin their enterprise security infrastructures. Among the array of AI applications, the respondents chose network intrusion detection and prevention, fraud detection, and secure user authentication as the most critical for any effective cybersecurity strategy going forward.

The vast majority of professionals believe AI will play a significant role in their future cybersecurity strategies.

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The surveyed professionals are correct in staking such large hopes in Artificial Intelligence. Current platforms already prove AI a formidable weapon. Take, for instance, BitNinja’s Attack Vector Miner, which uses AI technology to detect zero-day attacks and unknown botnets. The AI system identifies patterns and creates clusters to identify these attacks in more efficient ways than a human could.

So where exactly is the AI security threat?

In the same cybersecurity benefits of AI applications, but used in reverse. The IRM respondents are also well aware of this conundrum. They expressed their belief that if they don’t deploy these AI security applications, malicious attackers will take up the AI-based tools against them. As a double-edged sword, AI can help companies detect frauds and security breaches, but can also empower cyber criminals to carry out more nefarious attacks against companies.

Combine this with the unprecedented proliferation of connected devices likely to increase with the 5G rollout. The expected result is an expansion of entry points that cyber criminals can explore. More specifically, an unprecedented level of threats through DDoS attacks and malware attacks on IPv6 devices.

These expectations raise concerns in two major areas of current and future business and technology markets: The IoT and consumer data collection. However, the 5G and AI combination also presents solutions.

2 major areas of concern resulting from the 5G and AI integration

Currently, there’s no clear cut solution for the security challenges emerging from the overlapping usage of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses that will attend the 5G rollout, and it’s a herculean task to ensure the security of every single device in an IoT ecosystem against DDoS attacks.

It is also impossible to ensure the safeguarding of the ever-increasing consumer data being siphoned in such an environment.

But the capabilities of 5G and AI, when considered together, are far too great to be all doom and gloom. These technologies will likely solve security issues if utilized properly.

1. Security challenges of 5G and AI in IoT networks

By expanding the capacities of networks to accommodate more devices, 5G also opens up more entry points for attacks. Keeping in line with other reports, a recent survey by Microsoft quizzed more than 3,000 IT executives and 97% of them averred to cybersecurity being one of the most critical issues surrounding the implementation of 5G. According to the report, reliable user authentication and the management of IoT devices are the two most pressing cybersecurity concerns for executives.

However, these are also areas where 5G and AI can have the most impact. Both can aid companies in incorporating several functionalities and applications to beef up their IoT security systems. The faster speeds of 5G, combined with the more powerful processing power of AI, can allow for more robust user authentication protocols and fraud detection mechanisms for IoT systems.

2. Security challenges of 5G and AI in consumer data collection

With 5G and AI, marketers and customer relations experts can harvest a greater pool of highly insightful consumer data. This will help them match customers with the right offers and craft their ad campaigns with greater accuracy. We’re talking about millions of devices beyond your smartphone - devices used in homes, cars, corporate buildings, public facilities, etc. -- harvesting information from users for consumer behavior analysis.

AI-powered devices that offer voice command assistance will collect data from the user commands, and then use them to generate more accurate responses to the users’ requests. AI-powered devices also gather user data to offer more accurate predictions and insights to help both companies and their customers make more effective decisions.

However, this data collection prowess might not always be dedicated to benevolent courses. There are growing concerns among the public that these data collection tools may be too invasive, reiterating the concept of AI as a double-edged sword.

Data collection might assist AI-powered devices to become more efficient and user-friendly, performing a slew of highly useful functions with increasingly greater accuracy and efficiency. But it might also breach the privacy of many users, and expose users to more risks of identity thefts. 

Hence, companies aren’t alone when it comes to cybersecurity concerns -- consumers are concerned as well, and rightfully so. In fact, where AI might be perceived as a cybersecurity solution to executives, consumers might tag it the opposite.

According to a recent survey polling the public regarding their perception of data collection systems powered by new technologies like AI and 5G, over 87% of respondents were “highly concerned” about the integrity of their personal information. Further, over 77% of the respondents were primarily concerned about unauthorized remote access to their connected devices.

Final thoughts - Awareness of 5G and AI security concerns is key

While the cybersecurity threats that accompany 5G might appear daunting, the most important thing is identifying these risks. Currently, several solutions have been made available for companies looking to fortify themselves against these risks, and AI seems to be king of the cybersecurity road. But risks and threats exist with both technologies, even when combined. But their integration can also prove a solution to many of these problems if utilized correctly.

The pros and cons create a cybersecurity mystery. Nobody knows for sure what’s to come, considering a full 5G rollout is yet to be completed. But there is, surely, some challenges underway, regardless of whether the specific challenges and their measures are certain. Thus, at this point, the greatest armor is being aware that some cybersecurity concerns are at hand for both 5G and AI. Being aware that solutions will also lie in these technologies, however, is just as valuable.



This article is written by Ralf Llanasas. He is a blogger and digital marketing expert. He writes anything that is related to mobile marketing and the latest technology news. His writings can be seen in several publications aimed at IT industry.

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