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  • Writer's pictureRichard Blech

What does 5G mean for IIoT Data Security?

Due to its capability for automating and communicating with devices, utilization of IIoT is becoming standard for a growing number of industrial facilities. The demand for IIoT solutions is not expected to diminish; its global market size is expected to grow from $76.7 billion in 2021 to $106.1 billion by 2026. And with the rollout of 5G networks, the industrial sector will have even more opportunities to realize how IIoT can improve their operations.


However, the release of 5G is taking place in an era international cybercrime, a period in which there is the frequent weaponizing of the software that has been used to develop and transform the digital landscape. IIoT system capabilities already make the systems highly desired targets of attackers as the successful compromise of an IIoT gateway could expose an entire OT infrastructure to attack, resulting in major operation disruptions. Cybercriminals can not only exploit the weakness of the communication protocols used in IIoT, but they can also manipulate operational control vulnerabilities. This can create scenarios in which DDoD attacks that use IoT as a catalyst are the norm. In scenarios in which the target is critical infrastructure, like a water treatment plant or electric facility, or pertains to national security, like a defense contractor working on aerospace and weapon launch technology, the fallout could be destructive.

As the industrial sector continues to reshape itself by leveraging 5G networks to realize the full benefits of IIoT, it should be mindful that alongside the advancements of 5G are substantial risks that can be leveraged by malicious actors to compromise data security for monetary reward or to harm nation-state adversaries.


Unlike previous networks, 5G is primarily software-defined, designed so that there is less latency, higher speeds and better flexibility of wireless services. Its virtualization, the execution of a virtual network on top of the physical network, is key to achieving its connectivity requirements. However, the characteristics that make 5G innovative—the higher bandwidth, virtualized network functionalities, etc. –are also its Achilles heel.

According to a CISA report, the architecture of 5G networks systems is a potential primary threat vector. 5G networks require the use of more information and communications technologies than earlier versions of wireless networks. They employ multi-access edge computing, in which data is analyzed, processed and stored at the closer to the end user at the network edge instead of in the cloud. These factors, especially the increased virtualization of network functions, create a wider attack surface. This is a major cybersecurity concern, as according to one survey, 41 percent of mobile operators find addressing 5G’s network virtualization vulnerabilities challenging.

How does this impact IIoT data security? The 5G network environment magnifies IIoT security issues. Data security has always been a prevailing concern when integrating IoT into ICS. In IIoT deployments, in which there could be potentially thousands of endpoints, data does not exist entirely within the enterprise itself. With that much greater amount of data being transmitted on 5G networks, malicious actors will be more tempted to attempt to infiltrate the network to access sensitive data. Malware can be downloaded faster than before. Also, the technologies incorporated by IIoT, such as sensor data, machine-to-machine communication, Big Data, machine learning and more, are prime targets in the 5G environment without the proper security solutions in place.


As 5G continue to rollout, the need for cybersecurity capabilities that extend far beyond conventional safeguards will grow. This need is underscored by the passage of the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020 and the release of the Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.

Encryption is a critical component of the effective cybersecurity infrastructure for IIoT on 5G networks and is key to creating an IIoT system in which data, whether it is at rest or in motion, is completely encrypted. Securing data while it is in motion is particularly critical to ensuring that the 5G network being used can meet its ultra-reliable, low-latency communications requirements. The encryption and cryptography solutions used also not only have to be reliable, but also easily scalable to quickly adapt to the needs of IIoT systems as needed.

The XSOC CRYPTOSYSTEM and SOCKET can be used to help regulate access control of all types of data on 5G networks, effectively safeguarding and isolating data between users, organizations, and other parties with authorized access to the data. Irregular required patching of embedded devices is not uncommon, so post-quantum encryption at the device level is also necessary to help mitigate risks. Our optimized cryptography solutions can be easily integrated to help offset the vulnerabilities of 5G networks.

When powered by 5G networks, IIoT is poised to become increasingly more powerful and a fixture in industrial operations. XSOC CORP provides encryption and cryptography solutions that can help industrial facilities make their 5G networks and IIoT systems safer, protecting sensitive data whether it is at rest in a device or in transit. Let us show you how we can help your enterprise stay secure in the 5G era.


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