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COVID-19 has taken away our ability to socialise in person and enjoy the freedom of public places, but the one thing holding this country together is the connectivity we have; allowing us to video chat friends and family, conduct our work and live as much of a normal life as possible.

However, whilst the rest of the UK is abiding by the new rules and guidelines of the extended lockdown, a select few have been setting fire to the 5G masts that are being installed to improve communication throughout Britain.

According to BBC News, “the UK’s mobile networks have reported a further 20 cases of phone masts being targeted in suspected arson attacks over the Easter weekend.” One of the phone masts targeted provided communications and connectivity to the Nightingale Hospital situated in Birmingham. This could have led to unresponsive services from both ambulances and individuals trying to contact the hospital. What a lot of these arsonists don’t realise is, they aren’t attacking 5G structures, as many of the attacks have been on working 3G and 4G posts. This shows the attacks are not calculated or planned but are a result of misinformation and distortion from fake news outlets.

  • So, what has sparked these vandals to damage these masts in the first place? Many conspiracy theorists believe there’s a connection between the COVID-19 outbreak and the 5G masts being installed. As BBC News reports, one theory suggests that 5G suppresses the immune system and another claims COVID-19 is using the 5G networks radio waves to choose victims, accelerating the spread of the virus. These unsupported theories about the links between 5G and COVID-19 are the most recent examples of online misinformation seen in the UK, consistent with an Ofcom survey. With many celebrities and large social media platforms fanning the flames of these false claims, it’s no wonder these incidents have increased, the further we get into lockdown.

  • With fake news spreading and many believing the misinformation being forced upon them, what exactly can be done to stop this new crime wave of arson? When we take a look at the telephone masts that are being attacked, they all have one thing in common… a lack of physical security around the perimeters of these digital infrastructures. This has been proven by the number of incidents that have been permissible due too little to no physical restrictions. However, the prospect of 5G has been causing issues long before the COVID-19 outbreak, which poses the question as to why wasn’t physical security considered beforehand? Proactively securing the expensive infrastructure and protecting key workers would have prevented these attacks which have resulted in loss of vital communications.

But with that being said, how can networks stop the imminent threat levels caused by misinformation now? Temporary physical security should be the next step being considered to avoid any future attacks on these phone masts. Temporary security is ideal for situations like these ones, where rapid deployment is key, when threats are high, in reducing the number of incidents. They can be installed in next to no time with very little prep or groundwork. Also, the beauty of this system is their length of service, with many being installed for years with the same level of security. Any physical security implemented right now could be used to ride out the storm until the fear of 5G decreases.

So, the Hot Topic asks; with the spread of misinformation ceasing to stop leading to an increased crime wave on our nation’s digital infrastructure, should a level of physical security be implemented to restrict access?

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