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Mobile World Congress: security challenges in a hyper-connected world

Mobile World Congress: security challenges in a hyper-connected world
By Jeremy Wilks
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Mobile World Congress: security challenges in a hyper-connected world


Our hyper-connected world is never more present than at Mobile World Congress, the world's leading mobile technology exhibition. At the 2019 edition in Barcelona, data security was in the spotlight.

The 5G challenge

Tech giants have a great vision of how 5G could change the world, but there are those who argue the next generation network could pose a significant security risk, too. With so many more devices able to be connected, and the architecture of the network more open, experts say 5G opens up more chances for hackers and viruses to attack

"In 5G, traffic is encrypted, all the way from the device to the core and throughout the core of the network, and it's a strong encryption. So security was taken into consideration," says Ronen Shpirer, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager at Fortinet, an American company specialising in the design of global security solutions. "But on the other hand, 5G encourages an open infrastructure," says Shpirer. "Yes, we think about security, but we open an environment which is more prone to attacks."

New tactic for phishing

Even without 5G, attacks are widespread. The latest trend comes in the form of phishing through fake phone applications, which once installed, start stealing user data. Android owners are the most affected.

"The most popular is mobile banking threats," says Lukáš Štefanko, a malware researcher at Slovakian security firm ESET. "They try to steal the credentials from the victims, using sophisticated techniques, such as misusing accessibilities, or simple fake banking apps, and they try to impersonate actual banking applications. Really simple, but powerful anyway."

Ultra-secure phones capable of self-destruction

The silver lining is that data safety and privacy have been put at the forefront of the industry's priorities over the last years, with governments and big corporations being the first ones concerned about keeping their secrets confidential. 

Rabih Dabboussi, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Darkmatter, a UAE-based company that produces ultra-secure devices, explained how their new Katim R01 phone protects your data, at all costs: 

"Let's assume you lost it or it got stolen, and somebody is physically tampering with the device, either removing the screen or drilling a hole in the back, cutting it open to extract the memory chip. There are sensors in the device that would trigger the wipe out of the memory and the deactivation of the device, so it ultimately self-destructs."

As we move forward into this 5G future, billions more devices will go online. So, whatever kind of device you're using, stay vigilant, that's the message from the 2019 Mobile World Congress.

Journalist • Camille Bello

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