Cyber Security in Smart Cities

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  The entire world is striving towards becoming digitally smarter to maintain economic, social and environmental sustainability. India is also not behind and is driving the aspiration “digital india” campaign. The smart city mission was started as a part of this digitization venture in 2015. Our country is in the midst of a massive wave of urbanisation as millions of people move into towns and cities each year. Enormous investments are being made to meet soaring aspirations and to make towns and cities more liveable Why smart cities?    Information and communications technology has become indispensable to the modern life, we critically depend on information and communication infrastructure in governing our personal lives, our societies, conducting business and running critical infrastructure. Hence more governments are taking an interest in adopting “smart” concepts, for management of energy, water, transportation, waste, surveillance and security etc. What is expected out of the mission?    The Smart Cities Mission is expected to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology to create smart outcomes for citizens. Challenges? Smart cities move from being a buzzword to reality as the market has evolved into its next stage. As more governments begin to adopt “smart” concepts, most find it challenging to keep pace with rapid changes in the digital world and the continued evolution of the ir service delivery models. The increased complexity of city’s systems, interdependencies, globally connected social, economic and political sub systems has increased the vulnerability of a city’s security.    The base of a smart city network is interconnectivity- of people, digital devices, and organizations; which opens up new vulnerabilities —  access points where the cyber criminals can get in.    Citizen and organizational data makes an integral component of a smart city network. This includes highly sensitive and critical information such as biometric, health, financial details of individuals. Privacy and appropriate protection of this data is of utmost importance as the cyber threats get magnified as infinite supply of data becomes more integral to a wide array of operations.    However, the most critical challenge is identifying the need of a robust cyber security and data protection regime. As of now, there is no security organisation responsible for ensuring cyber security within smart cities. Additionally, there is no or limited consideration of cyber security during the various phases of smart city development.    Smart city stakeholders have low awareness of cyber security risks and vulnerabilities. Further, the stakeholders responsible for securing the smart cities, have limited cyber security capabilities.     According to EY India’s Information Security Survey 2018 -2019, more than three-quarters (81%) of organizations do not yet have a sufficient budget to provide the levels of cybersecurity and resilience they want. Smart cities also face the same roadblock: Limited budget is allocated for cyber security in the overall smart city budget. Even when a budget is allocated, it does not match the risk profile of smart cities, thereby making the process of setting up adequate defences a difficult proposition.    One of the major concerns about smart cities sensors in the equipment; buildings etc. are insecure and not tested thoroughly. Owing to lack of standardization of IoT devices, the sensors are prone to hacking. Notorious individuals can hack the sensors and feed fake data, causing signal failures, system shutdowns etc. Recent security breaches in smart cities around the world    In April 2018, Atlanta’s smart city network was locked down by a ransomware at tack where the attackers encrypted digital working files, locking employees out of the smart city network completely, while the rest were forced to shut down to prevent the virus from spreading. It is believed that the cyberattack destroyed 'years' worth of police dash cam video footage.    Hackers targeted Singapore’s largest healthcare institution, SingHealth in December 2018 and stole the personal profiles of 1.5 million patients along with the details of prescriptions for 1,60,000 others.    In April 2017, some miscreants played a pornographic video on an advertisement screen installed at a metro station in New Delhi and the entire sequence was shot by a few commuters on their mobile phones, after which the incident went viral on social media. It is believed that the LED TV system was under commissioning and the Wi-Fi port was accessible due to lack of password controls. Solutions?    Smart city technologies have large attack surfaces that have a number of vulnerabilities, especially in systems that contain legacy components using old software which has not been regularly patched. Technology solutions aim to use best practices to mitigate these risks This includes: o   End-to-end encryption o   Strong password policy o   Up-to date firewalls, anti-virus o   Isolation of trusted resources from public resources (DMZ) o   Implement manual over rides on all systems The aim is to reduce the attack surface as much as possible and to make the surface that is visible as robust and resilient as possible.    Since data centres are the pillars of a smart city, effective measures shall be taken to ensure their security and resilience. Data back-ups should be done regularly, and according to the  best practices, should be done off site. This helps in data protection in case of physical security breach at the data centre.    Cyber security and privacy acts shall be made more stringent to ensure security is given the foremost importance. Existing regulations have been updated at periodic intervals to incorporate the smart city security perspective. What is India doing?    The Indian personal data protection bill is a revolutionary step towards India’s aims to build a robust data protection framework.    The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) released a model framework for cyber security in smart cities on 20 May, 2016, which covers the security of smart cities across different layers, namely sensor layer, communication layer, data layer and application layer.    Draft Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA): The draft DISHA document was recently released in the public domain for comments. It aims to set up a National Health Authority in India which shall be responsible for enforcing privacy and security measures for electronic health data, and to regulate storage and exchange of the same.
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