Articles, Cybersecurity, Smart Services

The One Major Pitfall in the Future of IoT Connected Cities

This post was guest-authored by Kayla Matthews, technology writer and the editor of Productivity Bytes.

The global population continues to grow every year, and more people are living in modern cities than ever before. With the rise in urban populations comes the rapid expansion of smart cities, or cities incorporating the Internet of Things or IoT. The integration of IoT technology allows our biggest cities to be more connected than ever before. Smart cities across the world are integrating technological advances that assist cities with improving infrastructure, energy use, traffic situations and much more.

What’s the Problem With Smart Cities?

As technology evolves and grows, so do the people that want to abuse it. Cybersecurity isn’t just vital in the digital and business world anymore. Extensively connected cities are vulnerable to vicious attacks on a city-wide scale via technology and the internet. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and other cyber attacks can cripple an entire city’s infrastructure if not armed with the necessary protection measures.

Cybersecurity is essential to the flourishing smart cities like Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Austin and New York City. These massive hubs of business, people and technology are more dependent on digital security than ever. People that live and work in these cities expect to be safe from cyber-attacks just the same as they expect to be safe from physical crime and terror attacks.

Cyber-attacks should be a major priority of these metropolises so they can protect highly sensitive information from being stolen and procedures from being interfered with.

What Are Smart Cities Currently Doing?

Most cities aren’t investing as much capital into cybersecurity to scale with how much they are investing in the actual IoT technology. Of the $135 billion spendings predicted for cybersecurity of cities in 2024, more than half will be spent on the financial, defense and ICT (Information, Communication and Technology) industries, according to ABI Research. This spending leaves very little to split between five essential sectors — Energy, Transport, Waste and Water, Healthcare and Public Security.

ABI researchers expect that smart cities will contain almost 650 million connections via Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) by 2024. This type of network runs on the fundamentals of lower bandwidth costs, lower latency and increased coverage. LPWANs are low-cost options for cities to transfer the highest amount of data as fast as possible. This type of network is not the most optimal choice when it comes to defending thousands of cyber-attack attempts.

How Are Cities Impacted?

Flawed security systems in these vital city components can make it much easier for hackers to exploit the weaknesses in the security of any single underfunded sector. Once one area is compromised, the entire connected IoT network can be infiltrated, causing mass disruption for the whole city.

Dimitrios Pavlakis of ABI Research warns us that cyber-attacks on smart cities can impact infrastructure, hijack communication systems and steal mass amounts of personal data. Attacks can even falsely trigger disaster alert systems, which can throw entire city populations into hysteria.

All this potentially stolen government, industry and personal information can be used by infiltrators to sell to the highest bidder. This amount of data leaking can reveal classified government documents, tank businesses and even put citizen’s lives at risk. Functional infrastructure and communications systems can also be held for ransom by hackers.

How Can Smart Cities Stay Secure?

We can take some notes from the slow adoption of new cybersecurity tactics from credit card companies and the lack of investment by ecommerce companies. In 2019, only 53% of retailers made significant investments in cybersecurity in the United States.

Even with the Payment Card Industry (PCI), Data Security Standard (DSS) established in the mid-2000s, many credit card companies have been infiltrated. Hundreds of millions of Americans’ credit cards and accounts have been exposed i the past decade. With these two industries being so essential to today’s economy, one would assume that executives would put the highest priority on cybersecurity, but that isn’t the case.

Smart cities need to avoid going the same path that retailers and credit companies took and emphasize implementing the highest security systems they can get. Threat-based cybersecurity may be the best option available to smart cities that need to protect themselves from attacks.

According to experts from BDO, “Threat-based cybersecurity is a forward-looking, predictive approach. Instead of focusing solely on protecting critical data assets or following the basic script of a generic cyber program, threat-based cybersecurity concentrates on investments in the most likely risk and attack vectors based on an organization’s unique threat profile.”

The same principle of this strategy for businesses can apply to cities integrating IoT too. The focus should be on preventing the attacks rather than just investing in protecting data and other assets from the attacks.

Another cybersecurity measure that these cities need to implement is integrating all components. These components must all be scalable, interoperable, crypto-agile, compliant and use on-premise and cloud methods. With this method, all parts are correctly encrypted, connected securely, compliant to cybersecurity standards and use a combination of on-premise and cloud storage.

The combination of threat-based cybersecurity and integrated components is paramount in the future success and safety of smart cities.

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