Smart Cities Need Smart Security

Through the implementation of smart technology, cities around the world are benefiting from increased efficiency, automation, connectivity, smart transportation, and a more sustainable ecosystem. Boston, for example, provides those living and working within the city access to a range of apps through which they can get updates on road conditions and parking information. Boston is also a leader in the global Vision Zero initiative which aims to end fatal and serious traffic crashes. To collect data, Boston uses video cameras, LED lights, and sensors under roads to improve street designs and increase pedestrian, cyclist, and driver safety.  

Another popular use for smart technology is waste management. Washington D.C. has incorporated intelligent waste management systems which feature sensors in trash bins that monitor the amount and weight of waste in bins. The sensors then relay this data to a cloud-based web service used by the city’s Public Works Department. The web service compiles the data into a map of every sensor-equipped bin in the city, showing which ones are ready for pickup. This enables DC’s Department of Public Works to optimize their route collection schedules and prevent bins from overflowing.   

San Diego is perhaps America’s smartest city. Three thousand LED streetlights are equipped with wireless network connections to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By networking the lights, city officials can remotely control and monitor the street lighting, saving San Diego $250,000 a year in electricity and maintenance costs. Additional smart city projects are in the works that will enable San Diego to monitor parking spots, listen for criminal activity, and check air quality. 

More Connectivity = More Security Concerns   

All of these smart city systems work through the collection, storage, and analysis of vast amounts of data. In relation to smart transportation systems, this information may include where, when, and how people move throughout a city. If citizens use mobile apps to report information such as traffic incidents or street closures, even more personal data could be retained such as names, addresses, and dates of birth.  

If smart city networks are not properly secured, this sensitive information could be stolen by cyber attackers to be sold online and used for fraudulent purposes. Even worse, if critical infrastructure is hijacked by cybercriminals, sensors could be compromised and industrial control systems (ICS) could be manipulated. A data breach of this magnitude would not only bring smart city systems to a halt, it would also create widespread panic.   

While city officials are anxious to implement smart technology, they must first consider how citizen data will be managed and if system connections are secure. Though the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) already requires systems to have privacy built-in by design, such security regulations are not yet mandatory in the U.S.  

Protecting Citizen Privacy 

To mitigate security breaches, data from remote smart sensors must be encrypted as it is transmitted to and from local government control centers. By implementing a remote access virtual private network (VPN), government officials will be able to protect the vast amount of sensitive information traveling throughout their smart cities. Encryption tunnels within a VPN guarantee that data is unintelligible to anyone trying to intercept system communications.  

According to PwC, there will be a steady increase of smart city development around the world over the next seven years. The total value of the global smart city market is projected to exceed $2.5 trillion by 2025. Although greater connectivity across cityscapes provides many economic benefits, there are countless security risks that come along with the expansion of smart cities. 

With a professional, enterprise-grade VPN in place, smart city operators will be able to manage encrypted communications between standard, cloud, and mobile network infrastructures remotely and at scale. Protecting citizen privacy and public safety is key for any smart city environment to be successful.  

Interested in learning more? Contact us here.  

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