Government watchdog urges policymakers to boost cybersecurity for 5G networks

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal watchdog agency, recommended this week that policymakers consider creating cybersecurity standards to ensure a safe rollout of fifth generation, or 5G, wireless networks.

In a report made public Tuesday, the agency detailed “capabilities and challenges” involved in the buildout of 5G networks, making a number of recommendations aimed at scaling up cybersecurity, spectrum availability, and consumer data privacy, along with addressing potential consumer health concerns stemming from 5G radio waves.

“5G networks introduce new modes of cyberattack and expand the potential points of attack,” the GAO report reads, also noting that “5G networks will exacerbate existing privacy concerns.”

The watchdog agency wrote that as a result, “policymakers could support” nationwide cybersecurity monitoring of 5G networks, along with considering adopting 5G network cybersecurity requirements.

“Taking these steps could produce a more secure network,” the agency wrote. “Without a baseline set of security requirements the implementation of network security practices is likely to be piecemeal and inconsistent.”

In addition, GAO noted that a coordinated cybersecurity monitoring program “would help ensure the entire wireless ecosystem stays knowledgeable about evolving threats, in close to real time; identify cybersecurity risks; and allow stakeholders to act rapidly in response to emerging threats or actual network attacks.”