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Smart cities not ready to meet security risks

ISACA survey shows IT pros believe city authorities are not best equipped to tackle cyberthreats

Smart cities will face most threats to energy, communications and financial systems.
Smart cities will face most threats to energy, communications and financial systems.

Cities are under-prepared to meet the security risks from smart city projects, according to a global survey by ISACA.

While awareness of the cybersecurity threat to smart cities is growing, many IT professionals believe that city authorities are not ready to address these risks. Only 15% of respondents consider cities to be most equipped to contend with smart infrastructure cyber attacks, compared to 55% who think the national government would be better suited to deal with the threats.

The survey of 2,000 members of ISACA, an international IT association, found that the energy sector is considered to be the critical infrastructure system most susceptible to cyberattacks (71%), followed by communications (70%) and financial services (64%). These sectors, along with transportation, are the sectors that respondents expect to gain the most from smart city deployments.

The research shows that malware/ransomware and denial of service are the two most concerning types of smart infrastructure attacks. Additionally, respondents noted that cities' smart infrastructure is most likely to be targeted by nation-states (67%) and hacktivists (63%).

"Before our cities can be identified as being ‘smart,' we must first and foremost transfer this smart attitude to the way we approach and govern the rollout of new technology and systems," said Robert E Stroud, CGEIT, CRISC, past ISACA board chair and chief product officer at XebiaLabs. "Our urban centres have many potentially attractive targets for those with ill intent, so it is critical that cities make the needed investments in well-trained security professionals and in modernizing their information and technology infrastructure."

The majority of respondents consider implementing new tools and techniques such as smart grids and artificial intelligence for cybersecurity to be important, but less than half of respondents consider those likely to be implemented in the next five years.

The need for more effective communication with residents living in a developing smart city also is apparent, as three-quarters of respondents indicate that municipal governments have not educated residents well about the benefits of living in smart cities.

Tapping into smart technology to modernize parking, ID systems and other city services can create efficiencies and lessen congestion.