Is 5G Safe?

Just like when microwave ovens and 4G services were introduced, the rollout of 5G services has sparked concerns about safety. Should you be concerned? Here are some things to keep in mind.

Just like when microwave ovens and 4G services were introduced, the rollout of 5G services has sparked concerns about safety. If you perform a web search, you will find many viewpoints on the topic. Some people are saying it’s harmless, while others are warning that it will cause cancer and other health issues. A common argument among the latter group is that 5G is dangerous because it travels over higher frequency radio waves. Another argument concerns what has been said in a certain report by the World Health Organization.

So, is 5G safe? To better answer this question for yourself, you need to be familiar with some basic science.

Electromagnetic Radiation 101

There is electromagnetic radiation everywhere around us. This radiation travels in waves and varies in the amount energy (aka strength) it has. The shorter the wavelength, the more energy it has — and the more dangerous it is. Some radiation is so strong that it can damage people’s cells and DNA, which increases the risk of developing cancer. This is referred to as ionizing radiation.

Radiation that does not damage cells or DNA is called non-ionizing radiation. However, even non-ionizing radiation has some health risks. Exposure to intense, direct amounts of it can result in tissue damage due to the heat generated.

Electromagnetic radiation causes electromagnetic fields (EMFs). These fields are broken down into two categories based on their frequency (i.e., number of waves per second):

  • Higher-frequency EMFs (e.g., x-rays, gamma rays)
  • Low- to mid-frequency EMFs (e.g., radio waves, microwaves, visible light)

EMFs in the ionizing radiation part of the electromagnetic spectrum — known as ionizing EMFs — include x-rays and gamma rays. The rest of the EMFs are referred to as non-ionizing EMFs. They include radio waves, microwaves, and visible light.

Where 5G Fits in and What It Means

As previously mentioned, a common argument among 5G opponents is that 5G is dangerous because it travels over higher frequency radio waves and therefore will increase the chances of getting cancer. The first part of this statement is true. The frequency of high-band 5G typically ranges from 24 to 40 gigahertz (GHz), which is a big step up from 4G LTE’s frequency of around 2.5 gHz.

However, the frequency of high-band 5G is far below the frequency of the various ionizing EMFs, which starts around 30 petahertz (PHz) — in other words, around 30 million gHz. Since a 5G radio wave is not an ionizing EMF, exposure to it won’t damage your cells or DNA, or increase your chance of developing cancer.

Plus, while exposure to intense, direct amounts of non-ionizing radiation can result in tissue damage, regulatory agencies around the world know about this issue and regulate it. For example, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets limits on how much humans can be exposed to radiofrequency emissions from cellphones, transmitters, and facilities.

2B or Not 2B

Another reason why some people believe that 5G is unsafe stems from a classification in a report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This agency conducts and coordinates research into the causes of cancer. After it researches whether a specific item causes cancer, it places it into one of the following cancer-risk categories:

  • Group 1: The agent is carcinogenic to humans.
  • Group 2A: The agent is probably carcinogenic to humans.
  • Group 2B: The agent is possibly carcinogenic to humans.
  • Group 3: The agent is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.
  • Group 4: The agent is probably not carcinogenic to humans.

IARC classified radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation as 2B. This might sound alarming, but a rating of 2B basically means that there’s not enough evidence to either say it is or is not carcinogenic. Other items such as aloe vera extract, carpentry, gasoline, and even pickled vegetables are also classified as 2B by IARC.

The 2B classification also alludes to the need for more research, which is a good thing. Just because there is no undeniable proof either way right now does not mean that can’t change. Humans are always discovering new things and gaining a better understanding of the existing world around them.

The Answer

Two common reasons for claiming that 5G is unsafe — 5G’s higher frequencies and IARC’s 2B classification — turn out to be non-issues, which helps alleviate some of the fear surrounding 5G. These non-issues — combined with the fact that scientific consensus currently says we have nothing to worry about — means you do not have to forgo getting a new 5G phone if you want one. But it is always a good idea to keep an open mind in case any new developments arise in the future.

5G Netzwerk flickr photo by Christoph Scholz shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

5 Email Scams to Watch Out for During Tax Season

It is tax season in the United States, which means both businesses and individuals are at risk of being conned out of their money or data. Learn about five popular email scams that will likely make the rounds.

It is tax season in the United States — and cybercriminals all over the world know it. For them, it is time to ramp up efforts to scam people out of their money or data. Initially, hackers mainly targeted individual taxpayers, but that has changed. Nowadays, businesses are common marks as well.

Here are five popular email scams that cybercriminals have used in the past to steal personal data and money during tax season. Since the scams were successful in the past, hackers will likely use them again in the future.

  1. Emails Asking for Copies of IRS Forms

Businesses use W-2 forms to report employees’ earnings and tax withholdings to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), so cybercriminals often use these forms in their scams. Posing as an executive or another person in authority at a business, hackers send an email to the company’s payroll staff requesting copies of employees’ W-2 forms.

Many businesses have fallen victim to this scam, prompting the IRS to call it “one of the most dangerous phishing emails in the tax community”. The emails are very effective because cybercriminals take the time to study their marks and make preparations. For example, they usually spoof or hack the executive’s email account as well as personalize the W-2 request so it sounds plausible. That way, the payroll staff is less likely to question the email’s legitimacy.

With the recent release of the new IRS W-4 form, experts expect that cybercriminals will adapt this scam to request copies of W-4 forms. Like W-2 forms, W-4 forms contain employees’ social security numbers and other personal information, which hackers use to file fraudulent tax returns, steal people’s identities, or sell on the dark web.


  1. “Reminder” Emails with Links

In 2019, hackers launched many different types of IRS impersonation email scams. Here is how one common variation works: Pretending to be from the IRS, hackers send emails that contain subject lines like “Automatic Income Tax Reminder” or “Electronic Tax Return Reminder”. These unsolicited emails contain links to spoofed IRS websites and a password that recipients need to use to access files about their tax accounts, electronic returns, or refunds on those sites.

People who fall for the scam have their computers infected with various types of malware. For instance, the malware might be a remote-access tool that lets hackers take control of their computer or a keylogger that tracks their keystrokes.

  1. “Tax Transcript” Emails with Attachments

In another common impersonation scam, cybercriminals send out phishing emails pretending to be from “IRS Online”, a non-existent entity. The emails contained subject lines that include the phrase “tax transcript” (the IRS’s term for a tax return summary) as well as attachments named “Tax Account Transcript” or something similar.

The attachments are laced with Emotet, a banking trojan used to steal sensitive information. Once on a computer, it is designed to spread to other machines in a local network. As a result, Emotet is one of the most costly and destructive malware programs affecting organizations, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is part of the US Department of Homeland Security.

  1. Emails from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

Although the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) email scam first appeared in 2016, it has continued to pop up in email inboxes every year since then. In this scam, people receive emails supposedly from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) about their tax refunds. These emails try to trick recipients into clicking a link that leads them to a site where they are asked to provide personal and financial information.

Although TAP is a real group, it is not part of the IRS. It is a Federal Advisory Committee under the authority of the US Department of the Treasury. TAP members are volunteers who listen to taxpayers’ concerns to identify common issues and make recommendations for improving the IRS service and customer satisfaction. TAP members are not involved in providing tax refunds — nor do they request personal or financial information from taxpayers.

  1. Scams Targeting Tax Professionals

Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting tax accountants and other professionals working in tax preparers’ offices. Hackers often use phishing emails to trick the tax professionals into providing their account passwords, Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs), Centralized Authorization File (CAF) numbers, and other sensitive data. The cybercriminals then use this information to access the systems in which the tax firms store their clients’ data. Once inside, the hackers steal the clients’ personal information, including their social security numbers. The cybercriminals often sell this data on the dark web. They also might use it to file fraudulent tax returns or steal people’s identities.

Don’t Become the Next Victim

While email scams are common during tax season, you and your employees can take some simple measures to avoid becoming the next victim. Most important is knowing how the IRS does and does not contact taxpayers.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels. Instead, it typically uses mail. “The IRS initiates most contacts with taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business,” according to the IRS. “Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive a letter or sometimes more than one letter, often called notices, from the IRS in the mail.”

taxes flickr photo by mikecohen1872 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license