Smart Cities and Cyber Threats:  What the Future Looks Like

Smart Cities are inevitable. Most major technologies already existing today are essential building blocks for Smart Cities of the future, like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT). What a thrill that in the future, it’s no longer wishful thinking that we could live in cities and societies interconnected via the internet.

The total investments on the development of Smart Cities will amount to $189.5 billion in 2023. The majority of the investments will be on sustainable and resilient energy, infrastructure projects, data-driven public safety, and intelligent transport. Emerging technologies will also be heavily-invested on, like vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity, digital twin, and officer wearables.

Right now, Toyota is developing Woven City near Mount Fuji as a prototype for a fully-connected ecosystem that will serve as a “living laboratory.” Full-time residents and researchers will be able to test and also further develop technologies such as robotics,autonomy, personal mobility, and smart homes and utilise them in a real-world environment.

But new cyber threats are emerging as well, together with the latest technologies coming to the forefront due to Smart Cities. Cybercriminals will exploit any vulnerabilities,and if we do not upgrade our security solutions soon, we’ll be at high risk of exposure to these threats. 

Cyber Threats to Smart Cities That We Need to Prepare for

  1. Data and Identity Theft

Data and identity theft are one of the most-dreaded cyber attacks by individual and corporate identities alike now. It will persist to be a growing concern even in the future, most notably in Smart Cities, where a single intelligent device such as a coffeemaker or toaster can be a potential gateway for hackers to invade a network. Even today, a lot of drive-by attackers have been successful in taking over devices and networks through one or two vulnerable smart devices. Data generated by an unprotected smart city infrastructure could provide cyber criminals with an amount of targeted personal info that can get exploited for fraudulent transactions and identity theft. 

  1. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

A DDoS will attempt to render a machine or network resource unavailable to its users by disrupting the services of a device connected to the internet. Flooding the target with redundant requests to foil legitimate requests from being fulfilled is typically its goal. It makes it difficult to stop the cyber attacker when incoming traffic floods a target from multiple sources. A plethora of devices can be breached and forced to join a botnet programmed to overload a system. Once this happens, the attacker can wreak further havoc to the system, either by stealing more data or rendering the entire system useless. Some after-effects include lawsuits against the victimized business, refunds, and even bankruptcy.

  1. Device Hijacking

In device hijacking, cyber criminals infiltrate and effectively take over and assume partial to full control of the victim’s device or devices. It is difficult to detect these digital assaults because the attacker does not change the basic functionality of the device. For instance, cyber criminals can exploit hijacked smart meters to launch attacks on EMS (Energy Management Systems).

Permanent Denial of Service (PDoS)

PDoS is an attack that can damage the device so severely that it requires replacement or installation of new hardware. A hijacked parking meter, for example, can fall victim to sabotage and would have to be replaced. Permanent Denial of Service is too much to handle that people might have a hard time to replace all the damaged devices that have been breached.

How to Make Smart Cities Secure:

  1. Educate the Citizens

A significant cyber security protocol in Smart Cities is to educate leaders and citizens. Governments must ensure that citizens are capable of identifying phishing emails, malware, and suspicious online behaviour and execute mitigation strategies. Citizens should also be educated on online and offline practices when it comes to cyber threats. It is an excellent way to prevent cyber threats or to stop them at their source.

  1. Identify Vulnerabilities

Governments should be aware of those cyber threats and identify which ones can affect Smart Cities. Organizations must collaborate with cybersecurity experts to understand and detect cyber attacks and create strategies. Immediate strategy development should be a default or norm so that tackling various types of attacks and executing necessary measures to prevent them will not be in vain.

  1. Step 3: Utilize Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication can allow a system to verify a user’s identity with the user ID and password, as well as a biometric input or one-time password. When governments use two-factor authentication, they can overcome the limitations of conventional usernames and passwords. They can also prevent unauthorized access to essential services and confidential data, making systems more secure.

  1. Step 4: Develop Regulations

Smart Cities in other countries (US, Europe, Australia, etc.) have designed effective cybersecurity regulations to deal with threats.Smart Cities will govern the usage of modern technologies when using sound regulations and policies, such as IoT, AI, and big data, and devise plans against cyber threats. They should update these regulations regularly to evolving technologies, emerging cyber threats, and changing public perspective.

  1. Step 5: Encrypt Confidential Data

Data encryption is a very effective method of securing data. When using encryption, files are made confidential because cryptographic hashes are created that can be verified only by an authorised user’s public key. When an attacker gains illegal access to encrypted data, they would be unable to decrypt. Data encryption is one more layer of protection that helps individuals, enterprises, and governments ensure the integrity of confidential data.

Conclusion: What the Future Looks Like

There may be new cyber threats that hackers have developed, but since we cannot stop Smart Cities from happening, we need to find ways to secure these new and emerging technologies. We should be able to recognise these cyber threats to prevent cybercriminals from ever breaching into Smart Cities and severely damaging them. Governments and citizens must be aware and on the alert so that they can be proactive and participate in the prevention phases. Just as we update ourselves with the latest threats and trends to cybersecurity, we need to keep doing that into the future all the more as technologies continually advance. The future still looks bright despite the risks, because the benefits of Smart Cities far outweigh the problems it might pose.

Author’s Bio

John Ocampos is an Opera Singer by profession and a member of the Philippine Tenors. Ever since, Digital Marketing has always been his forte. He is the Founder of SEO-Guruand the Managing Director of Tech Hacker. John is also the Strategic SEO and Influencer Marketing Manager of Softvire Australia – the leading software eCommerce company in Australia and Softvire New Zealand.

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