Wi-Fi offload opens 5G opportunity for hackers - Mobile World Live

Wi-Fi offload opens 5G opportunity for hackers

25 JUN 2019

A cybersecurity expert flagged Wi-Fi handoffs as a key security vulnerability for 5G, arguing standards need to be put in place to verify traffic is being handed off to a valid source.

Ryan Orsi, director of Wi-Fi product management at network security company WatchGuard, told Mobile World Live hackers can create so-called evil twin networks, which duplicate a desired SSID in order to trick devices into connecting to a malicious network. Once users connect, attackers can eavesdrop on their traffic.

He warned the risk of these attacks will increase in a 5G world, as operators offload more mobile traffic to Wi-Fi.

In a report released in February, Cisco forecasted nearly 60 per cent of all mobile data traffic will be offloaded to Wi-Fi by 2022. For 5G networks specifically, Cisco estimated the figure could be as high as 71 per cent.

Orsi also said cell site simulators could become a similarly serious problem as hackers adapt Wi-Fi-style attacks to cellular, pointing to high-density indoor cellular environments, such as train stations and shopping malls, as likely targets.

Software embedded in both user devices and access points could be used to detect and avoid malicious signals, but Orsi noted “that fundamental piece isn’t being done today”.

“We really need to develop a new standard that ensures the offload process happens in a way that traffic cannot be offloaded to an illegitimate network and connections can be easily identified as someone you can trust.”

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Diana Goovaerts

Diana joins Mobile World Live as its new US Editor, reporting on infrastructure and spectrum rollouts, regulatory issues, and other carrier news from the US market. Diana comes to GSMA from her former role as Editor of Wireless Week and...

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