Computer viruses were the original cyber threats, however, since the late 2000s, mastermind criminals began to seriously threaten the security of our cyberspace.
Some ways in which cybersecurity can be attacked include identity theft, database attacks, “phishing,” which involves an attacker sending an email containing malware from what appears to be someone they know, SQL Injection attacks, which target customer databases through malicious coding, Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and much more1.
A number of defense mechanisms are taken by cybersecurity professionals to maintain the infrastructure security for monitoring and security analytics in an effort to be prepared in the case of a cyber attack, as well as have an efficient means of responding to and recovering in the incidence of an occurring threat.
As the world continues to increase its digitalization in virtually every aspect of our daily lives, the global spending on cybersecurity products that work towards defending cyberspace against such threats is expected to exceed $1 trillion between the years of 2017 to 2021. The rise of the “smart city,” which describes the implementation of smart and intelligent systems that allow all elements of a city to share data to increase the efficiency of the area, now faces the same security threats as any other technology avenue.
To allow for such an close interconnectivity to exist between the people, devices and organizations of a city, smart cities incorporate the management of energy and smart grids, automated intelligent buildings that regulate heating, air conditioning and lighting systems within the building, traffic management systems and much more.
With this revolutionary system in mind, combined with the pressing reality of possible cybersecurity threats that plague almost every technology, Gregory Falco, a Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aims to combat this very issue.
In his doctoral research, Falco has not only looked at different conflict negotiation techniques to attempt with cyberterrorists, but also works on understanding the vulnerabilities within a system that potentially exploit it to cyber attacks2. Furthermore, Falco has founded NeuroMesh, a startup company that protects the Internet of Things (IoT) devices against cyber attacks by utilizing the same tools that hackers use to break through secure systems.
IoT devices play an important role in ensuring the proper functioning of smart cities, as they often connect the sensors, lights and meters that are present around the city to collect and analyze data in one common forum. IoT devices, describe any type of device that connects to the internet, such as cellphones, headphones, wearable devices, etc.
Researchers estimate that over 100 billion connections bring IoT devices together in a giant network that involves people-people, people-things and things-things relationships.
With billions of devices being connected in this network, the threat of security becomes overwhelming as issues of privacy and data sharing emerge. Additionally, the cybersecurity of IoT devices is increasingly threatened due to their smaller memory and processor size, which often is not protected by traditional security software, thereby increasing the susceptibility of foreign invasion to any data shared within this massive system.
Cyber criminals are continuously developing new techniques to penetrate well-established systems to disrupt sensitive data and ultimately steal intellectual property.
Cyber attacks increase in their sophistication and subsequent difficulty in combating these threats, therefore when present in the smart city situation, not only is the data threatened, but the people within the city itself, or even outside of the city limits can be affected by a serious attack.
Sensitive material including the close surveillance of a person’s daily activities, such as by listening to someone’s conversations or tracking their location, can become extremely dangerous when the information is in the wrong hands3.
The best way to address the challenges of cybersecurity within a smart city setting involves being constantly prepared to any possible threat.
To maintain this readiness, governments can reduce their vulnerability as a target to security threats, thereby increasing their resilience to a possible attack. Some ways in which a government can prepare for the possibility of a cyber attack on a smart city include the implementation of an intelligence strategy that provides a decision making process in the event of an attack, maintain data analytics and cyber threat intelligence agencies to vigilantly analyze and track the origin of possible attacks, among other possible responses.
While governments and individuals cannot predict or control when a cyber attack may happen, the most important start to maintaining the security of a smart city lies in having an efficient response system in place.
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- “Common Types of Cybersecurity Attacks” – Rapid7
- “Gregory Falco: Protecting urban infrastructure against cyberterrorism” – MIT News
- “Cyber Security” – EY