The Trump White House has signed the “Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020,” paving the way for the creation of a plan to secure 5G networks and protect related innovations. With 5G devices rolling out in the US market, and providers expanding their 5G coverage, the future of mobile tech is getting closer, and the U.S. government is beginning to look more seriously at how it can best be protected.
The path to 5G-enabled devices and compatible services in the United States began opening up in 2019, with major mobile companies introducing a handful of 5G-enabled phones and limited service options. With more devices built to capitalize on 5G on the horizon – and demand for 5G access from other industries on the rise – the signing of the Act gives US lawmakers a path toward legislation to help protect US businesses, citizens, and strategic allies.
While the Act establishes the need for a unified approach to securing 5G technologies and infrastructure, it doesn’t actually offer any specific, protective measures. Rather, it lays out a series of broad mandates the Trump White House must take into consideration when drafting its security plan, and requires a draft of that plan to be delivered to Congress within 180 days. The Act directs the White House to work in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, and multiple other federal agencies to craft a plan that takes into consideration the security needs of businesses, consumers, and strategic allies who are also ramping up their use of 5G. Among other requirements, the White House must identify vulnerabilities in 5G technology and suggest steps the general public and private industries can take to mitigate potential weaknesses.
5G brings a new level of speed and responsiveness to mobile data, paving the way for an exponentially more robust mobile experience along with game-changing enhancements to cutting-edge technologies like driver-less cars, home automation, and virtual reality. However, it’s also seen as an immature technology that hasn’t been thoroughly stress-tested for the kinds of loopholes and backdoors that bad actors look to exploit. Given how much more data 5G is capable of transmitting, there’s that much more potentially vulnerable information to manipulate. When you’re talking about a driver-less car, for example, the risk to human life can’t be understated – if the infrastructure that car is using to send and receive critical information is compromised, the result could be catastrophic. Likewise, as homes become increasingly reliant on technology for everything from locking doors to powering security camera feeds, the risks to property, and even life, are apparent.
Clearly, a plan is needed to make sure 5G technologies are safe and secure before they become as widespread as the current standard. While it’s encouraging that the White House has signed the Act, it still has to formulate a plan that will meet with Congressional approval in the midst of the on-going coronavirus pandemic. Addressing such an array of potentially serious safety concerns would be a tall order under normal circumstances, let alone the current moment. There is perhaps no better motivator for the White House to push forward, however, than the pandemic itself. As technology is used to aide in the fight against coronavirus, it’s not hard to imagine how 5G could improve communications, the dissemination of information to people sheltering at home, and even provide the kinds of creature comforts needed to deal with the psychological stress of the pandemic. 5G can make phones faster, create a more realistic and responsive Half-Life sequel, even drive a car – but its ability to enhance connectivity and information sharing at critical moments can’t be discounted. The government would be wise to ensure the US’ information infrastructure is well-prepared and secure, come the next inevitable crisis.
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Source: The White House