Urban centers worldwide are increasingly making the shift towards becoming “smarter” .
This is all done in an effort to improve the quality of life of its residents by enabling developments at the local level.
It is accomplished by harnessing various forms of technology to create smart outcomes.
Some obvious elements that have been known to undergo digital transformations include traffic signals/cameras, street lights, electric/gas meters, and sewers.

Additional parameters of smart cities include:

  • Seamless connectivity: 4G (and soon 5G) connectivity, super broadband, free Wi-Fi in dense areas
  • Automated intelligent buildings: featuring smart heating, air conditioning, lighting, etc
  • Intelligent healthcare: e-health systems, intelligent and connected medical devices
Wilson Lin, Managing Director of Cyber NYC & Uzi Scheffer, SOSA’s CEO

 

Smart City Concerns

While the benefits of digital infrastructures are plentiful, it’s important to note that it also comes with its fair share of new and substantial cybersecurity risks. The downside of interconnectivity is that sensitive data exposure vulnerabilities expand with each access point. As cities grow and industries expand, they open themselves up to cybersecurity risks. For instance, New York City is considered a hub for fintech, but as it grows, it opens itself up for greater threats. These threats include remote execution, signal jamming, malware, data manipulation, and DDOS.

The threats themselves have an exponential effect when one considers the challenges associated with unexpected domains that may typically go unnoticed.
Some concerning areas include:

  • The introduction of new technologies, market expansions, mergers and acquisitions
  • The easy accessibility of data anywhere at any time within networks
  • Vulnerable devices potentially corrupting other vulnerable devices
  • External access of closed operating systems
  • Security issues surrounding big data and cloud vulnerabilities

To counter these risks, it is crucial for smart-city plans to safeguard critical infrastructure that is essential for everyone- from individuals to institutions of all sizes. As such, it is important for cities and governments to look into partnering with cyber startups in an effort to rapidly advance using cutting edge technologies.

Cyber Initiatives

There are already cities that are heavily investing in cyber initiatives by actively partnering with cyber startups.

For instance, Cyber NYC was launched by NYCEDC. It was “a multi-pronged, $100 million public-private investment to make New York City a global leader in cybersecurity and create 10,000 good jobs.”

The goals of this initiative include the need to:

  • Develop the cyber workforce of tomorrow
  • Establish New York City as a global leader of cybersecurity
  • Support entrepreneurs and catalyze the next billion-dollar cybersecurity company

According to the Cyber NYC website, “Cyber threats have created a strong demand for more service providers, technology experts, and workers. Major private sector companies are now investing in this need.” There has been over 2.5 million data breaches worldwide in 2017. There will be an estimated $170B in worldwide cybersecurity spending by 2020.

The United States in particular faces the greatest number of hacks, which emphasizes the need for a cybersecurity hub in the United States. With initiatives such as Cyber NYC, New York City is able to focus on cybersecurity advancement thanks to the following program operators and their contributions.

This degree of collaboration demonstrates the beauty of governments working side-by-side with small and medium sized businesses that are innovating the cyber tech space. Such initiatives extend far beyond NYC, as demonstrated in the case of the Turnbull government launch of Australia’s first Cyber Security Strategy. Their annual report itself states that the private sector, which includes startups, has “an important role to play because it is the driver of growth, employment, and innovation. This impacts Australian businesses and families by improving their online safety.

Timing is essential for an increased level of cybersecurity in Australia, as there are indications that Australians lose money to cybercrime via scam emails and phone calls designed to harvest passwords, banking credentials and other personal information. Losses from some categories of cybercrime have increased by more than 70% in the last 12 months. The impact of cybercrime on Australian business and individuals is estimated at $7 billion a year.

 

A joint industry 4.0 innovation panel in partnership with BDO

The Importance of International Collaboration

In an effort to dramatically reduce the number of cybersecurity risks at scale on a global level, it crucial to build a functioning, global ecosystem. Cyber security is “geography agnostic” and there is tremendous value in being part of a global network that shares threat data and protection solutions.

There is no time like the present to open up conversations about cybercrimes, so that governments across the world can learn from each other’s successes and failures. In addition to boosting public education and workforce training, doing so would help them enable public, private, and academic cooperation. It would also help cities and governments set clear priorities as they define security baselines and build a risk-based approach to cybersecurity in an effort to make their smart cities even smarter.