As the United States competes with China to build 5G wireless networks—which enable medical advances such as remote surgery and enhance mobile and telehealth applications—federal regulators are not putting the proper protections in place to prevent cyberattacks, according to a former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman.
5G—or fifth-generation networks—are 10 to 100 times faster than the 4G networks most smartphones and networked computer systems run on, and that makes the information exchanged on them a much higher opportunity target for hackers, according to an op-ed in the New York Times. In addition to making remote surgical procedures possible, 5G networks will also make driver-free automobiles safer and easier to use, according to the op-ed, which notes that “the data output of a single autonomous vehicle in one day will be equal to today’s daily data output of three thousand people.”
Tom Wheeler, author of the op-ed, chaired the FCC from 2013-2017. He writes that when 4G technical standards were written, cybersecurity attacks were not seen as the “existential threat” that they pose to the US today. Under the Trump administration, he argues, technical standards for 5G networks do not include the level of cyberattack protections that the White House National Security Council has recommended. This is because the recommended protections are opposed by the wireless industry.
“Shortly after taking office, the Trump FCC removed a requirement imposed by the Obama FCC. that the 5G technical standard must be designed from the outset to withstand cyberattacks,” Wheeler writes, adding that the current administration also retracted an Obama-era FCC white paper detailing threats to 5G cybersecurity.
Wheeler urges Congress to exercise its oversight authority to find out why more is not being done to protect the faster networks.