Are smart cities as safe as we think they are? Security experts say not yet

While many people presume burgeoning smart cities to be secure and safe for use by citizens, a new study by security professional association ISACA reveals the potential for substantial threats.

The association surveyed approximately 2,000 security and risk professionals focused on smart cities, including their management strategies, risk management measures, and future technology initiatives. This research shows that malware and ransomware lead the top of concerns in the sector, as well as more frequent and destructive denial of service attacks. Additionally, when asked to name the most likely executors of these attacks, smart cities experts named nation-states and hacktivists.

Global survey respondents flagged several critical infrastructure areas as potential targets including transportation systems, environmental systems and local and regional government, with the energy sector named by 71 percent as most susceptible to attacks, followed closely by communications at 70 percent, and financial services at 64 percent. Only 15 percent of respondents consider cities to be most equipped to confront and neutralize smart infrastructure cyberattacks; more than half of respondents believe the national government would be better suited to confront these potential threats.

Ironically, energy, communications and financial services are among the top critical infrastructure that experts anticipate benefiting most from smart city technology, along with transportation.

“With nearly 3 million people moving to global cities each week, ISACA’s smart cities survey is a timely wake-up call that many parts of government need to up their game in both planning to prevent city infrastructure attacks and in engaging with their citizens about these plans,” Rob Clyde, vice-chair of the ISACA board, said in a statement. “The top threat areas identified (energy, communications and financial services) are both economically and socially critical, and inter-related. This reinforces the importance of national governments working much more collaboratively with their municipal and state/provincial counterparts on multifunctional, smart solutions across data analytics, A.I., blockchain, smart grids and emerging technology.”

These looming threats are very real. Smart meters, such as those found in most major metropolitan cities these days, can be sniffed for data that can be used to profile home users. Centralized transportation systems can also be at risk, as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was when it was hit with a ransomware attack in 2016. Smart sewage systems could be hacked to release wastewater into bodies of freshwater, poisoning local resources. Then there’s Dallas, with more than 150 tornado sirens blaring in the middle of the night. The list goes on.

While city planners, smart city experts, and related organizations and constituents continue to struggle with security, these complex systems continue to evolve. The not-for-profit global initiative for securing smart cities has a good head start with guidelines and complex analyses of developing threats and solutions. But many experts say that more work in this area of smart city development is needed, with solutions that may include Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT), more standardized Static Application Security Testing (SAST), and perhaps a regulatory body to ensure that only well-secured cities are able to invest in these technologies.

Features

Cities looking to get smart take a lesson from an iconic shopping mall

From Disney World to the Mall of America, public venues are becoming microcosms for smart city projects. We dove into both, to show what government officials can learn – and what you can expect from your city.
Smart Home

Deck the halls -- and the rest of your house -- with the best holiday lights

The best holiday lights today are smart, long-lasting, easily programmed, and available in many different colors and modes. We've collected some of the best Christmas lights at a variety of price points for you to check out!
Smart Home

Facebook Portal and Portal+ video-calling devices gain new content and features

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.
Deals

Choosing one of these smart TVs under $300 will make you look like a genius

Buying a good cheap smart TV is easier than ever. To help you out, we've sniffed out a half dozen of the best models out there with prices starting at just $130. We've even thrown in a couple 4K smart TVs, with these UHD models still…
Deals

Amazon Fire Deals: Tablets, TVs, and TV controllers in stock and ready to ship

Last-minute shoppers, and anyone seeking good deals on Amazon Fire products, are in luck. There's still time to order Fire Tablets, Fire TVs, and Fire media players, Fire CVRs, and Alexa-voice-compatible Fire remotes for Christmas delivery.
Smart Home

Best Walmart deals on Keurig and Nespresso coffee makers, espresso machines

The days till Christmas are slipping by, but these Walmart deals on Keurig and Nespresso coffee makers are prime candidates for last-minute gift selections. All four coffee makers ship for free in time to arrive before Christmas.
Smart Home

Ring, Amazon’s smart doorbell maker, explores technology that alerts police

Smart doorbells have been using facial-recognition technology to mark friends and family but a pair of patents filed by Ring could lead to doorbells that automatically identify suspicious persons and notify police.
Smart Home

These activists are hacking housing problems in NYC using apps and data

There are 1.2 million people living in "deficient" housing in New York City and now these coders are making easy-to-use, intuitive apps designed to give tenants a fighting chance against unscrupulous landlords.
Smart Home

Holiday shopping: Here are the final dates for Amazon’s free shipping promotion

If you're shopping with Amazon this holiday season, then time is fast running out if you want all of your gifts delivered before December 25. Here are the dates you need to know ...
Smart Home

Ward off porch pirates with the best outdoor security cameras

Worried about porch pirates stealing your packages, or intruders entering your home? Always be in the know about who or what is on your property by installing one of these outdoor security cameras.
Deals

Save up to $200 on Roomba and other robot vacuums before Christmas

We've found the best discounts on robot vacuum cleaners on brands such as Roomba, Shark, Eufy, and Ecovacs Deebot. Whether you're buying Christmas gifts or just need a little help around the house, these fourteen deals can help you save.
Smart Home

Here are the smart home gifts peple actually want this year

Looking for a smart home gift to buy for someone on your list? It's not too late! Of all the gadgets we research and test, these are our picks for the best last-minute smart home gifts for 2018.
Smart Home

Alexa’s top skills of 2018 are here to assist you in any way you can imagine

Amazon announced the Alexa Skills of the Year 2018, a collection of 24 skills Amazon's Alexa team considers the top skills for games, family fun, wellness, and daily habits. Amazon also encourages everyone to create their own skills.
Smart Home

Watch this NASA engineer own porch pirates with a glitter bomb package

NASA engineer Mark Rober had a package stolen from him and the police wouldn't do anything about it, so he took matters into his own hands and built a glitter bomb package to thwart would-be thieves.