Are Smart Cities Safer?

Cities are the cradle of our civilization and reflect the signs of our social and technological progress.

With advancements in connectivity and computing technologies, cities around the globe are investing in smart city initiatives to improve the quality of life of their residents.

Smart cities can offer a wealth of improvements to services like transportation, power, water, and communications. However, connected smart devices not designed with security in mind can pose critical risks to safety and stability of vital city operations and privacy of citizens — risks that are often underestimated.

The EastWest Institute (EWI), a global network of influential stakeholders committed to preventing conflict around the world recently published the “Smart and Safe: Risk Reduction in Tomorrow’s Cities” report designed to provide guidance for executives and administrators, to make tomorrow’s smart cities secure and safe by managing technology effectively.

The Guide is part of EWI’s Breakthrough Group on Secure, Resilient Cities and the Internet of Things designed to provide guidance for executives and city leaders to make tomorrow’s Smart Cities secure and safe by managing technology effectively. Prepared by EWI’s Bruce McConnell and Andreas Kuehn, the Guide greatly benefited from input provided by senior experts from Unisys, Microsoft, Huawei Technologies and NXP Semiconductors, as well as perspectives from over 15 global specialists.

This report identifies challenges and provides recommended actions in four key domains: cybersecurity, cyber resilience, privacy and data protection, and collaboration and coordination in governance.

From an electronic devices’ supplier perspective, the guide points out key procurement guidelines:

  1. Devices must be capable of upgrades to remove security vulnerabilities.
  2. Products should support hardware-based authentication.
  3. Device to Device or to System communications should be encrypted.
  4. Devices should be Security certified by independent third parties. \

Buying the right product is only the first step. Cyber security and privacy should be integral to the smart city’s system architecture.

As we add connectivity, intelligence and autonomy to city services, the smart city geographic integrity will be challenged by cloud applications residing in remote server farms that could be subject to the different quality of service, resilience and legal jurisdictions.

Reducing dependencies, maintaining functionality as local as possible with secure edge computing and connectivity can be optimal solution for effective, robust, data privacy, and cybersecurity of Internet-of-Things (IoT) systems like smart cities.

Sami Nassar
Sami Nassar
Sami Nassar is Vice President of Cybersecurity Solutions at NXP. With 20 years of experience in the high-tech industry, Sami brings a broad insight into digital security and semiconductors. Previous to joining NXP, he held key executive positions, among them, General Manager of the Advanced Solution Group at Renesas, Managing Director of Strategic Marketing for Hitachi, and Managing Director of Schlumberger’s (now Gemalto) telecom smart cards and systems. He also founded a number of startup companies in Silicon Valley.

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