We live in an age where the rise of smart cities and intelligent public infrastructure looks almost inevitable. Given the rate of innovation and technological advancement we’ve seen over recent years, it would appear quite reasonable to believe that, come the midway point of the century, the vast majority of the urban areas in the developed world will boats a decent number of intelligent features as well as being largely automated.
It is estimated that by the early 2030’s, almost 60% of the world’s population will be urbanized, leading to the expansion of existing cities and the birth of new, technologically capable smart cities.
With the integration of internet-connected technologies and devices into public and private infrastructure will come new challenges in safety, security, and privacy that society will have to learn to combat.
Top of the priority list in our new, ever-connected metropolises will be securing and protecting critical infrastructure and ensuring that such systems remain operational and uncompromized.
There are a number of reasons as to why securing critical infrastructure in smart cities is a priority and so, in this article, we’ve gathered our list of five reasons the protection and security of critical infrastructure is essential within smart cities.
So, let’s jump straight in.
1) Vulnerable Networks
Critical infrastructure within a smart city will almost certainly be more vulnerable to both the cyber threats we see today and those we have yet to see or discover. This is due to their inherently connected nature and is the reason adequate security measures are put in place.
In order to prevent critical infrastructure from being impeded by cyber-threats or hackers, security experts will require cyber/physical systems that are capable of providing adequate layers of protection against known threats.
It is possible we may even begin to see changes in the way critical infrastructure networks are designed and built in order to incorporate security-by-design framework. Mesh networks, for example, are capable of self-healing as they automatically reroute traffic should one of the network nodes become compromised or fail.
As our society becomes more data driven, we ourselves become more vulnerable to cyber-crime as more and more aspects of our business and personal lives are revealed through the data we generate interacting with both our own smart devices and those we come across in in our cities and towns.
With an increasing number of technologies being designed to collect, process and store this data, the risk of having our privacy breached through malicious software or by hackers is also on the rise. Critical infrastructure systems that deal with people’s personal data will be no different and will need to be prepared for the kinds of risks and attacks they may face within a smart city context, where vastly more data is produced and collected.
3) Secure Authorization
Giving automated systems authorization to make decisions without human oversight always has the potential to create problems, while also being one of the key elements within a smart city framework. When it comes to critical infrastructure within a smart city, this potential must be dealt with in order to reduce the overall risk in using such systems to an acceptable level.
One of the best ways in which this challenge can be met is through the use of properly authorized systems and personnel and preventing unauthorized access. For example, personnel overseeing critical infrastructure within a smart city could be notified when authorization requests are received or when certain pre-set conditions are met regarding system security.
Access control is also a key security point when it comes to the integrity of data and information both used and generated by critical infrastructure and other systems within a smart city. Unauthorized changes to data or system configurations within critical infrastructure could prove disastrous for many of the other connected systems making up a smart city as well as its occupants.
There is much work currently being done on the subject of data integrity, within much potential being hailed in technologies such as blockchain to potential help to resolve issues such as data integrity within connected systems.
Emergency services vehicles would be treated as if they were any other vehicle by intelligent transportation systems (ITS) if hackers were to somehow find a way to alter the data that those systems relied upon to determine priority vehicles.
Last but certainly not least we have safety. The well-being and safety of the populace of a smart city is what the majority of critical infrastructure found within one works to maintain. In order to keep citizens safe, critical infrastructure must be able to operate without disruption or impairment from external cyber/physical threats.
For example, in order for emergency services to respond quickly and appropriately to emergencies such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks, critical infrastructure such as roads and communications networks need to be fully operational and accessible. This requires an adequate level of security and protection for critical infrastructure in order to be guaranteed.
Smart cities and their occupants may well face a threatening new cyber future, however, with the right focus and technological development, the critical infrastructure they depend upon can be secured and protected.