Big Cities, Big Data: Why 'Smart Cities' Like NYC Need to Smarten Up

3/1/17 12:19 PM iCorps Technologies

When it comes to problem solving, it comes as no surprise that technology is king. For example, when large wildfires broke out on the West Coast in 2015, firefighters used drones to take aerial shots of the blaze and determine best points of entry. The latest in innovative technology utilization is the establishment of 'smart cities', which use the internet and cutting-edge technology to manage a wide range of city services, improving connectivity, availability, and efficiency.

A smart city like New York City allows for faster, transparent communication, creating easy access to your city's public services with the push of a button. If a service malfunctions, the appropriate authorities are instantly alerted. Aptly named "cities of the future," smart cities transform urban infrastructure into a living entity, constantly recording data and learning from it to enhance the experience of city living.

Plans to transform regular cities into smart cities, however, should take one crucial factor into account: increased vulnerability to cyberattacks. As the world eagerly grabs on to the Internet of Things (IoT), there is another world of hackers and criminals looking to exploit these connected devices. It's what many have started referring to as the "dark side" of IoT. Unfortunately, as vendors rush to meet the demand for smart technologies, security is sometimes compromised for convenience and plug-and-play-ability. But civilian information and daily life is at stake here - decisions makers must do their due diligence, striving to hold vendors to the highest standards of security necessary to protect the public. Let's take a look at some of the most serious challenges that NYC needs to address to take its position as a smart city to the next level:

Unsecured Features

In order to connect buildings and public services to citizens' smartphones and tablets, a vast network of sensors needs to be employed. These sensors can be easily hacked and fed false data. There is no end to the damage that can be done by criminals in this manner, from car traffic jams to services failures like subways and waste disposal, simply by transmitting the wrong set of commands to the system.

Consumers are so easily impressed by technological innovations that they fail to consider vulnerabilities. CTO and researcher Cesar Cerrudo found that 200,000 traffic control sensors installed in major cities were vulnerable to attack. New York City has over 12,400 intersections with traffic signals - imagine the traffic nightmare and danger that a compromised system could create. 

The technological equipment that goes into creating a smart city is often provided to the government by private vendors, who market standard hardware and software with no special capabilities to resist cyberattacks. Very little is done in terms of testing the products before utilizing them within the smart city framework.  HelpNet Security points out that because there are no compliance regulations around security for those implementing large-scale IoT solutions, implementers have to rely on best security practices 

The tried-and-true way to battle cyber threats is to have a team of skilled cyber security experts assess the equipment and network before it's implemented within the smart city framework. Doing the due diligence on the front end — before equipment is even purchased — can save time, money and security headaches or even disasters down the road. 

Network Vulnerability

The bigger a network grows, the more points of entry are available to criminals to introduce malware or carry out other attacks on the entire system. Imagine a digital network that encompasses an entire city, which is being accessed from countless locations on a daily basis. Data is processed at those places 24/7 and year-round. In such a situation, criminals would have to introduce a virus into the system only once through any one of those open access points, and then sit back and watch as the virus spreads out through the entire network, wreaking havoc on the city.

What Does This Mean for My Business?

As cities continue to become smarter and more connected, so are businesses. What many business leaders fail to realize is there are an alarming amount of vulnerabilities that can be associated with the latest technologies designed to make a business environment more efficient. Some examples are:

  • Automatic doors
  • Remote access thermostats
  • Remote lighting control
  • Security cameras

It's easy to forget that technology can be vulnerable. The "plug-and-play" mentality, such as being able to adjust the room temperature from a mobile device, is designed to provide instant gratification to consumers. Much like smart city technology, vendors have designed the innovative technology features for convenience, not for security. Because these devices are insecure, exposure to external threats increases, leaving cybercriminals to easily hack into company networks and access your sensitive data. 

Whether you are transforming an entire city or a business, security expertise and technology leadership is required in order to transition all systems successfully. To make sure that your new technology isn't breached by cybercriminals, find a trusted security partner before making any big technology transitions. Find out how you can better protect your digital network with a vulnerability assessment by industry leaders, who will help develop a plan to protect your business against attacks on your network. 

Managed Security

Related Content:
3 Tools to Boost Your Cybersecurity Posture
What is a Vulnerability and Why Should You Care
Before of These Ransomware Tactics and Cyber Scams