How smart cities can protect against IoT security threats

As long as developers work in tandem with one another, the security problems presented by the development of IoT within smart cities won’t be insurmountable.

 

Smart cities, which were once confined to the realms of science fiction books, are rapidly becoming a reality all around the globe. Unfortunately, like all revolutionizing innovations, smart cities are developing their own unique challenges alongside of their perks. So what are industry insiders and tomorrow’s city planners doing to face these challenges?

The security issues facing smart cities are unlike anything ever before seen, and solutions to these problems haven’t yet sprung up en masse, meaning many different interest groups have proposed their own respective plans. By combing through some of today’s proposed solutions, we can identify some of the leading trends that will come to dominate the future of smart city security.

Preempting a security nightmare

It’s no secret among smart cities’ proponents that they generate a slew of security nightmares that are unmatched by any other technological development. Such large, interconnected networks of gadgets and people are bound to generate issues ranging from social surveillance to pollution to even physical security threats. Before they try to tackle the security challenges of smart cities, experts would then be well-served to read up on them and learn what they should expect in the coming decades.

Being more interconnected isn’t necessarily a good thing all the time; the infrastructure systems of smart cities, which connect disparate parts of cities and their inhabitants to one another, are especially vulnerable. For instance, security research Cesar Cerrudo has already highlighted how vulnerable the traffic systems of tomorrow’s smart cities will be.

As the highly-lauded Internet of Things continues to grow at a stunning pace, the sensors and gadgets which are vulnerable to nefarious outside actors will only become more embedded in both our culture, and our physical infrastructure. Today’s public officials and tech innovators have some tough decisions to make when it comes to combating hackers and technical malfunctions; mainly, government regulators and private entrepreneurs are grappling with the question of whether it’s acceptable to sacrifice liberty and convenience for security.

Patching security vulnerabilities

In order to avoid disasters like those suffered by Kiev in Ukraine, which saw entire portions of its power grid brought down by Russian hackers, cybersecurity experts, architects, and city officials will have to work in tandem to implement better security infrastructure from the ground up. Security can’t be considered an afterthought when it comes to city design, which it all too often is in today’s world, as demonstrated by the hacks detailed above and the countless of other attacks that go by unnoticed.

Security conferences focusing on this issue which are being held today are already starting to realize this, and have begun to urge city officials and tech innovators alike to adopt better cybersecurity solutions. Smart cities should focus more on intelligent threat detection, perhaps by employing more machine learning algorithms to scour the web for vulnerabilities ahead of time.

Predictive cybersecurity analytics, too, will be of great use to smart cities hoping to preempt nefarious hackers and ne’er-do-wells. Analytics solutions employed by companies today to prevent data breaches could be modified and adopted by cities hoping to find gaps in their security infrastructure before they can be exploited by outside attackers, for instance.

Smart citizens inside of smart cities can make all the difference in the world, too. Responsible citizens who are trained to make smart lifestyle choices, keep their own data secure, and contribute to public awareness campaigns can go a long way towards preempting major cybersecurity threats.

Of course, government officials and the public will have to foster free and open debate about the security solutions they employ, as well. Greater use of biometrics and surveillance, for instance, which smart cities are uniquely in place to implement, will necessarily have some unsavory social consequences like spying on citizens. These negatives consequences of securing our cities can’t be forgotten as we advance head-first into an increasingly tech-savvy century.

Building resilient cities of the future

Cyberattacks and data breaches simply can’t be avoided entirely. Rather than trying to accomplish the impossible, smart city proponents would be well-suited to tackle what challenges they can, and encourage wise investment in IT infrastructure capable of resisting outside attacks.

The further development of our social capital, too, is critically important for securing the cities of tomorrow. Citizens with stronger educations and more-informed morals will be a vital part towards securing the center of tomorrow’s societies.

As long as tech giants, government regulators and everyday citizens work in tandem with one another, the problems presented by the development of smart cities won’t be insurmountable. A clear understanding of tomorrow’s risk landscape and a willingness to invest the time, money, and effort needed to secure our ever-more connected cities will go a long way towards ensuring that our smart cities are secure cities, too.

Image: Smart City, Internet of Things Illustration

Source: Network World

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.