Smart cities are the future of technology. We are quickly becoming dependent on computers to run cities.
Smart city technology addresses issues like energy, transportation, and utilities. This technology works to reduce resource consumption and waste to reduce costs. The smart city aims to enhance the quality of living of the people who live in it through the use of intelligent technology.
Importance of Security in Smart City
Security is an essential aspect of the success of a smart city. Security can be a challenge due to the involvement of many technologies and the interconnections of different networks and components. The smart city will always experience different types of cyber-attacks. Some of these attacks include phishing, malicious code, website intrusions, DDOS, and social engineering.
To secure the smart city, engineers and architects must introduce security starting at the conceptual stage. Security is essential during every step of the development lifecycle. Vulnerabilities must be addressed at every level to mitigate the severe consequences that can put the whole smart city at risk.
When adequate security controls are present, the technology that the smart city supports will run normally, and the people will continue to enjoy the services that come from the smart city.
Attackers can cause grave damage and can go as far as causing loss of life. An attack on traffic lights systems, food distribution systems, hospital systems, and transport systems may cause irreparable harm.
The security challenge for smart cities
One of the security challenges that smart cities face is the security of sensor hubs. The sensors monitor things like weather, air quality, traffic, radiation, and water levels. They can be used to automatically inform vital services like traffic and street lights, security systems, and emergency alerts. If sensors are left unpatched hackers might gain access and manipulate critical data.
An example of this is a recent attack on a commercial irrigation system in Israel. Hackers were able to turn the water system on and off remotely. Attacks such as these are a great danger to the smart city water system and could result in the emptying of the water reservoir overnight.
Bugs pose a significant security threat to smart cities. They open vulnerabilities that can be used by hackers to access Smart city systems. Bugs can allow attackers to insert malicious software commands that enable a hacker to gain unauthorized access.
Another security concern is internet openness that most smart cities utilize. The Internet can pose threats to anything connected to it if it is not adequately secured.
Authentication bypassing may also be a challenge. This attack allows hackers to get into internal administrative areas of the smart city that should not be accessible to them without having to enter a password.
Also, SQL injection is a growing concern. Attackers send data between the application and the database. With this, hackers force the device to perform actions that compromise the security of the smart city. Furthermore, there are IoT crawlers like Shodan and Censys that causes security risk to smart city components.
Social engineering attacks are a significant threat to smart cities. Social engineering attacks are the main challenge to the Internet of Things – the components used by the smart city. Attackers deceive a user into performing an action that that will cause a breach in a system’s information security.
The effects of social engineering attacks can also result in physical impacts like:
- Disruption and damage of train and tram signaling system, causing accidents.
- Water system damage causing water wastage
- Nuclear power plant damage
- Manufacturing plants destruction
Phishing attacks have increased in smart cities. Phishing attacks target email users to capture the user’s credentials. Hackers can use the information gained to access smart city systems for malicious purposes. The techniques and technologies behind phishing will continue to evolve. These technologies can manipulate things like tire pressure alerts, gas leakage, etc.
Ways to make smart city secure
There are significant challenges in securing a Smart city. However, the implementation of proper measures can successfully mitigate risk.
Smart cities are made up of a plethora of devices that often have different manufacturers. Therefore, patch management is challenging. Each manufacturer must make sure that the products are secure and that software patches are issued promptly. But it is the user’s responsibility to make sure they are practicing good security hygiene.
A smart city should have controls and standard operating procedures for when a security breach happens. The procedures should identify the breach, contain the attack, and restore the systems.
Basic security steps can be taken to avoid common security pitfalls. Users should update default passwords so that they are unique and complex. Policies should be enforced to ensure that passwords are strong. The establishment of security operations centers is required to monitor security, mitigate vulnerabilities, and respond to attacks.
Software updates on time
All software used in a smart city should be kept up-to-date. There should be a system administrator who his responsibilities are to make sure that all software is well updated so that hackers don’t exploit known vulnerabilities. All firewalls and antiviruses should be updated frequently.
Proper security framework
It is challenging to keep track of all components of a smart city due to its complexity. There may be thousands of connected devices deployed over many square miles. But the task can be accomplished using a proper framework.
A useful framework will include automated checks for software updates and security patches.
Security Best Practices
The use of security best practices by the smart city’s security team is essential. These are:
- Implementation of IT address restrictions for who can connect to the smart city devices. The smart city network should be secure, even when the system is on the public internet.
- Scanning application tools will assist in locating vulnerabilities of the smart city.
- The use of heightened network security rules to prevent access to sensitive systems and safe password practices.
- Strong access controls should be in place.
- Disable any or unnecessary systems or anything that is not currently used. Disable remote administration features and ports for hackers not to access them.
- Scan network activities and identifying suspicious internet traffic with the use of security incident and event management tools will help in countering any attack.
The use of ethical hackers for penetration testing
An ethical hacker will play a significant role in securing the smart city. He or she is tasked to test the security of the smart city to ensure that it is intact and no hacker can use hacking methods to get into the smart city. He can research all the new technologies that are coming up and make sure that the smart city is upgraded to fit to what is in the market.
Heavy penalties should be put in place to deter attacks on the smart city.
As the world continues to be more interconnected, security threats become greater. To make matters worse, criminals and hackers are increasing their skills and leveraging new technologies.
Therefore, smart city security should be a priority, and security specialists should be involved early in the design process. Also, the standardization of IoT devices is critical.
There is a need for everyone who is involved in a smart city and IoT to work together and take responsibility for security-related issues. Working together and having a unity of purpose towards the realization of secure IoT will help be a great stride towards a better future that is protected from unauthorized access.
Oliviah Nelson is an avid cybersecurity author who dives deep into technical and engineering issues in the cyber world. The author of books and articles about technology and security, Oliviah Nelson is a well respected authority.