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Wyden urges FCC to secure 5G networks against cyber threats

Wyden urges FCC to secure 5G networks against cyber threats
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWith a new president and a new Congress, it's time for Medicare drug price negotiation The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Senate Democrats call on Biden to immediately invoke Defense Production Act MORE (D-Ore.) on Wednesday urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action to secure the United States' fifth-generation wireless networks, or 5G, against cyber threats.

Wyden warned in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit PaiAjit PaiHillicon Valley: Twitter permanently suspends Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell and others | Laptop stolen from Pelosi's office during Capitol riots | Reddit bans r/DonaldTrump forum Pai drops Trump executive order to amend Section 230 Overnight Defense: US aircraft carrier staying in Mideast in abrupt reversal | DC Guard activated ahead of pro-Trump protests | 10 former Defense secretaries speak out against military involvement in election dispute MORE that vulnerabilities in past 3G and 4G networks that left them open to hacking could occur in 5G networks if action is not taken to secure them. He also strongly advocated for wireless carriers to use encryption to secure user data.

“The FCC must stop leaving the cybersecurity of American consumers, businesses and government agencies to wireless carriers, and finally secure America’s next-generation 5G networks against interception and hacking by criminals and foreign spies,” Wyden wrote.

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Wyden pressed Pai on whether the FCC supports encrypting all text messages and phone calls to help prevent security breaches and whether the FCC chair would support a third-party assessment being done to understand the security of wireless carriers’ networks, such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The senator also argued that the FCC should ensure that these wireless carriers build in cybersecurity protections as they roll out 5G networks.

“The FCC must act to ensure that encryption and authentication features included in 5G standards are enabled by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile as they upgrade their networks,” Wyden wrote.

The senator asked that Pai respond by Dec. 6. A spokesperson for the FCC confirmed to The Hill that agency officials had “received the letter and are reviewing it,” not commenting further.

Wyden has written to Pai in the past voicing concerns about the security of telecommunications networks.

In 2017, Wyden and Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuHouse Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis Washington state rep joins list of Republicans voting to impeach Trump Growing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Pai asking that the FCC prioritize warning Americans about the vulnerability of the telecommunications network to foreign threats and urged the FCC to force industry to take action to secure networks against cyber threats.

The FCC last week took steps to secure U.S. telecommunications networks against potential cyber threats from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, citing national security concerns.

New proposals, which the FCC is set to vote on later this month, would ban U.S. telecom companies from buying products from these companies using FCC funds and would potentially require American companies that already have equipment from these companies to rip it out and replace it.