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Cybersecurity – A Key Pillar of Smart Cities

8 May 2019 | Mamoon Reza, Cybersecurity Consultant and Vice-chair of Cybersecurity at Smart Cities Network

Smart Cities by definition, use modern ICT to collect, process and store data which is used to manage various assets and resources efficiently. These assets and resources can belong to any of the functional domains of Built Environment, Energy, Transportation, E-government, Health and Education services.

The common element across all the domains of Smart Cities is digital technology and data management. Whilst the digital revolution has given us unprecedented access to information and made all sorts of services ubiquitously available at our fingertips, it has often come at the cost of incursions into our privacy and loss of our data. However, in a Smart City context, it is not only our data and privacy at risk but also our public infrastructures and utility services.

Stories of hackers breaking into computers to control traffic lights, electricity power grids, building facilities are no longer something we see only at the movies, there are ample real-life examples of such hacking attacks. Ukraine’s energy grid suffered blackouts in 2015 and 2016 and both have been attributed by security experts as hacks by state actors. More recently, Venezuela suffered power outages which are suspected to be cyber-attacks. This is not to say that we should not be building Smart Cities. When is comes to Urbanization and cybersecurity Breaches, the trend is loud and clear – both are on the rise. According to a UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) study on world urbanization, 68% of the world population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050.

Image source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA)

Between now and 2050 an additional 2.5 billion people will be living in cities. To cope with this massive wave of people moving to cities our cities must be better planned, more efficient and environmentally sustainable – therefore, building smarter cities is the only way forward. But it is just as important that our smart cities are also safe and secure. To this end, cybersecurity must be at the forefront of our Smart City planning and implementation. We cannot afford for cybersecurity to be an afterthought or a supplementary service. To ensure the safety and security of citizens of smart cities cybersecurity must be baked in from day one.

Smart Cities Network (SCN) will be participating at ConnecTechAsia on Day 1 of ConnecTechAsia Summit, 18 June 2019 as their chairman, Tay Kok Chin moderates the panel, ‘Future Cities Panel – Building the Foundations of Smart Cities and Beyond’. Smart Cities Network will also be hosting a half-day workshop at ConnecTechAsia on Day 2, 19 June 2019, where representatives of Smart Cities in ASEAN will be invited to share on potential projects with interested business investors and partners. 

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