Urban centers worldwide are increasingly making the shift toward becoming “smarter,” to help 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 undergone 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 health care: e-health systems, intelligent and connected medical devices.
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 faces greater risks including 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 to advance rapidly using cutting-edge technologies.
There are already cities that are heavily investing in cyber initiatives by actively partnering with cyber startups.
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 have been more than 2.5 million data breaches worldwide in 2017, and spending on cybersecurity is projected to reach an estimated $170 billion worldwide by 2020.
The United States in particular faces the greatest number of hacks—a fact that emphasizes the need for a cybersecurity hub. 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:
- SOSA: Global Cyber Center
Building the NYC and global cybersecurity ecosystem by bringing together startups, corporations, investors and academia. Curated programs and events to foster collaboration across the cyber community, with the Global Cyber Center to serve as a landing pad for startups.
- Jerusalem Venture Partners: Hub.NYC by JVP
Develop enterprise-ready cyber companies, connecting them with investors and partners to create the next generation of international market leaders.
- Columbia University: Inventors to Founders
Launch new cybersecurity startups, sourced from university campuses that commercialize IP research.
- NYCx, NYC Cyber Command and NYCEDC: Cybersecurity Moonshot Challenge
A global competition to support and deploy new technologies designed to protect small businesses from cyberattacks.
- CUNY, NYU, Columbia University, Cornell Tech, iQ4: Applied Learning Initiative
A suite of four educational programs, offered and operated across the major research universities in New York City, to address the workforce shortage in cybersecurity.
- Fullstack Academy and LaGuardia Community College: Cyber Boot Camp
An accelerated training program to prepare individuals, especially those from underserved communities, for local jobs in cybersecurity.
This degree of collaboration demonstrates the beauty of governments working along 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 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 percent in the last 12 months. The impact of cybercrime on Australian business and individuals is estimated at $7 billion a year.
The Importance of International Collaboration
In an effort to dramatically reduce the number of cybersecurity risks at scale on a global level, it is crucial to build a functioning, global ecosystem. Cybersecurity 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 start 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 to make their smart cities even smarter.