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The latest trend in the business and technology worlds, the internet of things (IoT) seems to be everywhere. People and organizations are now demanding constant connectivity with machine learning to make sense of the volumes of data providing better overall business value, effective customer service and perfected lifestyle outcomes. Even global cities are vying to be the top “smart city” in Europe or in the U.S. or in the entire world.
According to csoonline.com, the global smart cities market is projected to reach $1.56 trillion by 2020.
This raises the question of the security level these cities possess. Even when talking about a single city, two sides seem to talk about very different places. On one side are thousands of stories and case studies advocating for smart cities in various channels.
But if you discuss smart cities within the cybersecurity community, the messages are much more negative. The numerous examples of utilities being turned off are pretty scary, even if they have largely stayed under the mainstream radar so far.
This trend is not just about the earlier days of IoT, with a brighter future coming soon. Security professionals generally hold to these views expressed in the Harvard Business Review article “Smart Cities Are Going To Be A Security Nightmare”. The article stated that simple computer bugs can cause significant glitches in control systems, leading to major technical problems for cities. For example, a hypothetical hack that triggers a blackout in North America is estimated to leave 93 million people without power and could cost insurers anywhere from $21 billion to $71 billion in damages.
For example, Dallas Texas is a leading smart city. Recently, a hacker who penetrated the security system activated a hurricane warning system for 15 times when there was no storm coming.
In this debate, like so many others, there isn’t much listening between the sides to get to a workable middle ground. Another trouble is that there are few mainstream media articles and virtually no conversations on the pros and cons of smart city developments or potential trade-offs with security. As a result, there is minimal movement towards delivering a roadmap for smart city security. City planners, tech startups and innovators describe to city leaders in tantalizing detail the amazing opportunities that will come to innovative smart cities. Meanwhile, security pros tell scary hacking stories at security conferences and in technology and cyber magazines to other security pros.
This is what makes answering the simple question of the significance of smart city security concerns so hard. They are of utmost significance to one camp and of seemingly little significance to the other.