Can smart cities truly be safe?

In an extremely well-researched analysis, Weave challenges our attitude to security in future cities. We should firstly bear in mind that one of the defining characteristics of a Smart City is the open access to data collected from its inhabitants. While the risks are only posited at the moment, they still represent a very real threat: by 2030, there will be forty cities with over 10 million inhabitants each, with a predicted explosion in the number of smart devices (with prediction of 28 billion objects connected to the Internet of Things by 2020). As such, security flaws in the systems used are only to be expected.


So what are risks do Smart Cities pose? Could being smart actually be dangerous for humankind?

The principles of the Smart City revolve around the development of a digital economy, with better allocation of resources, better use of space, shared living spaces, respect for the environment and preservation of nature as far as possible – as well as not merely coexisting, but truly living together. However, this final aspect has significant consequences for our security. Indeed, whenever tens of millions of citizens communicate, both among themselves and with other economic entities, the risk becomes exponentially greater due to the exponential growth in amount of personal data being exchanged and the constant, ubiquitous use of smart objects and apps.


An “attack surface” that increases

Security specialists explain that the “attack surface” increases in line with the rate of expansion of technology in daily life. The greater our use of the IoT, the more attack vectors there will be to access our data. With everything being connected via the internet, everything becomes more easily attainable, whatever firewalls we may come up with. Access to or misuse of our personal data is a risk that we already live with: but what if control of public transport systems, traffic control systems, street lighting for the entire city or even our living spaces, could be taken over remotely?

However, the greater the danger, the less we want to think about it! And yet, there is no doubt that we need to integrate this vision of security into our plans for the cities of the future. Some strategies are easily identifiable, starting with encryption of data, appropriate security for servers and networks, with updates and monitoring of software and application, and ensuring that all installations are properly configured. However, the key to the problem lies elsewhere!


Smart City/ Safe City:a lack of human resources

Once again, it is the human element that is responsible for ensuring security in a digital, robotic future. Even now, there is a shortage of skilled personnel and security specialists with the right training in new academic and technical fields: and these skills will soon be in even higher demand from Smart Cities.  If the research and development teams of online giants are already competing for top technical and mathematical talent, what will be left over for these cities and their service providers?

In addition, local communities will also need to define the legal framework for the security of people and goods, because the concept of the individual within the smart city requires a concept of rights and obligations, even as the internet itself is highly synonymous with individual and collective liberty.

Being smart also requires freedom: within the Smart City, humans will only achieve fulfilment where they can grow with confidence, and without too many restrictions. Let us not forget that security is a decisive factor in our collective decision to live together in harmony.


To read also:Has the security of connected devices fallen behind?