Emerging technologies including 5G networks could be vulnerable to attacks from terrorists, hostile states and criminals, warned Jeremy Fleming, director of the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
Writing in the Sunday Times, Fleming said new technologies including artificial intelligence, 5G and IoT will bring huge benefits to society, transforming areas including healthcare, creating smart cities and improving productivity. However, he said these technologies “also bring risks that, if unchecked, could make us more vulnerable” to attack from terror groups and overseas governments.
Forging a balance between benefitting from new technologies while protecting national security “requires new partnerships and different ways of working at a global level”, he stated.
Highlighting the increasing globalisation of technology, Fleming also said the UK needed to “learn to deal with it”, noting China’s lead on 5G could potentially pose a problem.
“Critical technologies – for example, in 5G – are increasingly likely to come from China…we must ensure that processes represent industry best practice so as to avoid real risk to the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI). We need to consider early, robust and fair solutions to the global challenge” of balancing “investment, trade and security”.
Fleming’s comments come as UK operators continue to strategise for 5G, expected to launch in the country over the next two years.
Market leader EE revealed recently it will begin testing its 5G network in October, with plans to launch commercially in 2019. Rival 3 UK plans to start its own trials in 2019.
Fleming added GCHQ will continue to build on its understanding of technology to inform government policy and protect the UK, while working with businesses, technology companies, academia and privacy groups to protect the public from real world and online harm.
“We need honest, mature conversations about the impact that new technologies could have on society. This needs to happen while systems are being developed, not afterwards,” he said.