Smart Cities Already Exist

A smart city is a framework, predominantly composed of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), to develop, deploy and promote sustainable development practices to address growing urbanisation challenges. 

A big part of this ICT framework is essentially an intelligent network of connected objects and machines that transmit data using wireless technology and the cloud.

Cloud-based IoT applications receive, analyse and manage data in real-time to help municipalities, enterprises, and citizens make better decisions that improve quality of life. 

Examples of Smart city technologies and programs have been implemented in Singapore, India, Dubai, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Stockholm, Copenhagen, San Francisco and New York. For instance, London has long ranked near the top of the list in roundups of smart cities in the world. It began to take early action in using technology to help tackle congestion and make parking simpler.

One of the tech hubs of the world, London fares well regarding broadband availability. More recently, city planners announced a plan to implement information technology to curb congestion. San Francisco is one of the first cities in North America to adopt smart city technology and the recent tech boom has made SF the unofficial capital of Silicon Valley.

In fact, spending on smart cities currently stands around £81billion. However, in the not too distant future we will live in cities  that are totally connected to the Internet, with entire infrastructures dependent on remaining connected. But, while it may be possible to maintain smart connectivity, there will always be the cyber risks to take into account, too. 

Cyber criminals will look to exploit the vulnerabilities smart cities possess and with entire populations, government departments and huge businesses the potential victims, the stakes are now much higher, as are the financial rewards.

This means that large office blocks and public sector buildings, motorways and road networks could all be brought to a standstill by cyber criminals asking for ransoms.

The Issue With Smart Cities Is Cyber Security

Cyber security will have to extend far past personal, or internal corporate networks, to encompass far ranging technological protection for vast city networks, achieved through extensive testing and research and development. Cyber security experts will certainly have their work cut out to devise software solutions that protect potentially millions of people at once, as well as countless networks all connected to one another.

Currently, many devices operate together in homes, offices and public spaces yet there is no one cyber security standard that these devices must function to, or be tested against, before being available for public use.

Without a security standard for connected infrastructure, we are feeling our way into the future while at the same time enabling huge capabilities, which is surely a recipe for disaster. This must be addressed as soon as possible.
 
We are increasingly dealing with connected versions of devices that have existed for a long time, and as a consequence, digital security is not very often incorporated into their designs. For example, take CCTV cameras. Designed at a time before these cyber security risks were even imaginable, their models and serial numbers are still printed on the side of the camera. These may seem like basic flaws, but it is where we are currently at. 

This basic information would allow a hacker to purchase another unit to find a vulnerability within the product line, and explore how to access the camera’s data, and how to alter it, or even take control of all the other CCTV cameras of the same model. Governments have to establish and promote cyber security regulations, including how security is designed and maintained in connected devices that will circulate throughout buildings, from smart lighting to networked door systems.

For organisationgiven the task of implementing smart technology in residential, commercial and public spaces, plans on how to do so will have to be part of the design and planning stage, including how human operators securely implement and maintain these smart spaces.It is integral that all connected aspects of smart cities are operating at the exact same standards, that have all undergone extensive planning and designing.

More Awareness & Training 

It is not just the networks and devices that will need extensive reviewing to ensure they are more secure than ever, but people working and living alongside them every day will most definitely need more awareness too. This is because more and more data will forever be shared, and the value of it is only going to rocket.

Individual error and falling foul to phishing attacks which trick people into clicking harmful links or inadvertently installing dangerous software, is still a major problem our society faces. Phishing attacks remains the most successful tactic for cyber criminals.

In 2019 around 65,000 small businesses were the subject of cyber-attacks in the UK. Many of these attacks were successful because of a lack of employee knowledge and practice.

It is the responsibility of governments and cyber security firms to ensure that awareness and knowledge is spread on how to defend against cyber criminals, particularly as nearly every aspect of our lives now involves being online or using connected devices.

What Else Can Be Done?

As well as spreading awareness and introducing government quality control standards for all devices and networks, it is imperative that regular updates and patches for all devices are automatically available, as this will help iron out any potential windows of entry for hackers.

Currently IOT products and devices do not receive automatic updates and can be used to bring down entire networks once breached. This just shows, once again, how integral it is for industry standards to be introduced and enforced. So, while it remains an attractive and futuristic concept to have truly smart cities and mind-blowing technology at our fingertips, there are many steps to be taken to ensure that it is safe to step into that advanced world.

Cybercriminals will be enjoying the prospect of the disruption and financial gain that smart cities offer them and governments and regulators must take action to to make sure that networks smart city infrastructure will depend upon are safe and secure.

Gemalto:        IoTNow:            IotWorldToday:              Information-Age

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