The security of SMART cities

Why it’s better to build smart cities from scratch rather than build on the existing infrastructure? How safe is the technology of SMART cities? What problems can occur in SMART cities? Increasingly, questions of data security will rise as will social, citizen-centric solutions to urban problems

Smart cities operate at their best when a people-centric approach is taken, with the belief that technology should work for and on behalf of the users. What truly makes a city “smart” isn’t just the technology, but the use of technology to solve a city’s most pressing issues. It’s a city that addresses the right pain points and leverages the best opportunities for communities, individuals and businesses.  Even so, their reliance of a SMART city on automated sensors and algorithms, increase the risks of data security breaches, vulnerabilities to invasions of privacy and concerns about software reliability.

Technology spending for the global smart city market is expected to reach $27.5 billion by 2023, according to market research company Navigant Research, and as as cities rely more on data to drive their decision-making, it raises the concern that technocratic governance could begin to replace the traditional political process that’s more deliberative and citizen-centered.

In the past years where several cases where technology had a negative impact on citizens live: in San Francisco subway was closed down becuase of the software bug, in Haifa the trafic management was hacked while in DC a researcher proved the lack of security controls in Washington traffic signals.

According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Report there are three themes that cut across security considerations for smart infrastructure. First are the linkages and the legacy between rural and urban: the sectors that make up transportation, electrical and water systems are becoming more permeable and remotely accessible. While this increases connectivity and speeds up data flows, it also stretches the borders that cities must secure. Secondly is about “inconsistent adoption” of smart technologies because of limited resources or consumer willingness to use the technology, such as autonomous vehicles.Third, smart city systems reduce human interaction in order to maximize computer efficiency, fact which could reduce the human skill to run  the system.

Anticipating the need for a more robust response to risk factors, a number of researchers from some of the leading IT security firms have created the Securing Smart Cities initiative to act as a consulting service to local governments that are looking to improve their infrastructure with technology. The nonprofit, founded last year, acts as a communication hub between government officials, companies and media outlets, with the goal of educating and spreading information pertaining to city cybersecurity.

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