Cyber Attacks in Smart Cities

by December 28, 2015 0 comments

– Harsh Marwah, Country Manager, Verizon Enterprise Solutions India

People are migrating to urban areas in large numbers in search of better employment opportunities and living options. According to the United Nations prediction, around 70% of the population will move from the rural areas to live in cities by 2050, globally. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recognized the gravity of this large-scale urbanization and announced the creation of around 100 smart cities across the country. The idea behind developing these smart cities is to improve each city’s efficiency in terms of infrastructure, economy, environment and ultimately, the overall standard of living through the use of technology, specifically the Internet of Things (IoT). Together with cloud computing, and machine-to-machine systems, these solutions form integral components of a smart city. Technology is going to be at the heart of smart cities as they facilitate a higher standard of living – connecting various devices.
With a whopping Rs. 48,000 crores allocated for the development of ‘100 smart cities’, India is all set to witness the next phase of digital evolution. While this will no doubt create new revenue streams for telecom providers, infrastructure vendors and application providers, it will also encourage a tremendous amount of technological innovation which will be in the interest of all.
Security risks associated with IoT
IoT is being widely talked about in the context of smart cities owing to its applications in addressing the myriad of problems including parking and traffic, clean water, air pollution, landfill waste, and deforestation. A recent study concludes that by 2025, organizations which extensively use IoT technologies in their products and operations will be up to 10% more profitable and each person will have more than six connected devices. Inevitably, we will witness a massive flow of information from devices especially when you consider the evolution of analytics, availability of real-time information and the proliferation of devices.
This is where the security risks come in. Anything connected to Internet is vulnerable to a cyber-attack and can be easily compromised using a number of threat factors such as Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, web application attacks and insider misuse. As a result, security implications are becoming inevitably persistent.
In the event of a cyber-attack, an entire ecosystem can be completely crippled if foolproof systems haven’t been properly implemented. Sensors in the equipment can be hacked and fed fake data causing signal failures, etc.

Harsh Marwah Country Manager, Verizon Enterprise Solutions India

Harsh Marwah
Country Manager, Verizon Enterprise Solutions India

How cyber attacks threaten nations
There are examples of cyber-attacks which have created many real-time panic situations in many countries. In 2012, the United States of America experienced traffic light hackings which resulted in many road accidents and in November 2013 in San Francisco, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) service was shut down by a software bug in the system which resulted in track switching. It affected 19 trains with about 500 to 1,000 passengers on board.
Verizon’s Data Breach Report analysed almost 80,000 incidents including 2,122 confirmed data breaches. While IoT represents a new opportunity for cybercriminals, the report found that there were only minor data disclosures and negligible instances to report. Having said that, it is rather difficult to be absolutely certain about what the specific risks are with since IoT is still in a very nascent stage. But, what we do know is that of the estimated five billion enterprise devices that will exist in 2020, only a few will be internet-visible, and still fewer will be used to transmit sensitive data. As a matter of fact, a number of these devices may essentially serve a single function – as simple as a light sensor. Nevertheless, most connected devices, irrespective of whether they are IoT-enabled or not, are viable cyber-attack targets. Attacking the device themselves may not necessarily be the end goal, but they could be manipulated to gain access into the larger enterprise network and its vital systems.
The idea of ‘smart cities’ has brought with it the means to alleviate various concerns, including aging infrastructure, population growth and congestion to name a few. The benefits do outweigh the risks involved in the implementation of this concept. But the fear of the evolution of these risks remains, which could result in utter chaos across different factions in the world.
Government CIOs will do well to heed simple security mantras such as encrypting and backing up data and ensuring that employees have an easy avenue to report the loss or theft of devices as soon as possible. In addition, IT teams need to know exactly what data they possess and where it resides.

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