Smart City Security

December 17, 2015 | Leave a Comment

By Brian Russell, Co-Chair CSA IoT Working Group

RussellBrianGartner defines a smart city as an “urbanized area where multiple sectors cooperate to achieve sustainable outcomes through the analysis of contextual, real time information shared among sector-specific information and operational technology systems,” and estimates that 9.7 billion devices will be used within smart cities by the year 2020.  

A smart city connects multiple technologies and services together, often in manners that were not previously thought possible. According to Juniper Research, there are five essential components of a smart city: technologies, buildings, utilities, transportation and road infrastructure, and the smart city itself. All of these building blocks are brought together, according to the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), to “create high quality employment, increase citizen population and become great places to live and work.

There are myriad use cases for smart cities. City Pulse provides a great starting point for defining some of these. In the near future, citizens will benefit from improved service delivery as cities enable capabilities such as smart waste management, pollution sensors and smart transportation systems. Cities will also be able to stand up improved security and safety capabilities – from managing crisis situations using coordinated aerial and ground robotic tools, to monitoring seniors to identify elevated stress levels (e.g., potential falls or worse) in their home. New services will likely be stood up, both public and private, to leverage these new capabilities.    

This smart city ecosystem is dynamic.  This is true for the devices that will make up the edges of the smart city, as well as the cloud services that will support data processing, analytics and storage.  The data within a smart city is itself dynamic, crossing private and public boundaries, being shared between organizations, being aggregated with other data streams and having metadata attached, throughout its lifetime.  This all creates significant data privacy challenges that must be adequately addressed.    

These complex smart city implementations also introduce challenges to the task of keeping them secure. As an example, services will likely be implemented that ingest data from personal devices (e.g., connected automobiles, heart-rate monitors, etc) making it important that only permitted data is collected and that citizens opt-in. Interfacing to personally-owned devices also introduces new attack vectors, requiring that solutions for determining and continuously monitoring the security posture of these devices be designed and used.    

City infrastructures will also be updated and extended to support new smart capabilities. There are smart city management solutions that tie together inputs from smart devices and sensors and enable automated workflows. These solutions can be hosted in the cloud and can reach out across the cloud through integration with various web services, creating a rich attack surface that must be evaluated on a regular basis as new inputs and outputs are added. This requires the upkeep of a living security architecture and routine threat modeling activities.  

Understanding the threats facing smart cities and the vulnerabilities being introduced by new smart city technologies requires a collaborative effort between municipalities, technology providers and security researchers.  Technology providers would be well served to review secure development guidance from organizations such as the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) and smart device vendors should make use of 3rd party security evaluations from organizations such as builditsecure.ly.  Municipalities should look to secure implementation guidance from organizations such as the Securing Smart Cities initiative, as well as the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).  .    

The CSA Internet of Things (IoT) Working Group (IoTWG) recently teamed up with Securing Smart Cities, to publish a document titled Cyber Security Guidelines for Smart City Technology Adoption. This document is an effort to provide city leaders with the knowledge needed to acquire secure smart city solutions, and includes guidance on technology selection, technology implementation and technology disposal. Download the document.  

The CSA IoTWG will continue to support the Securing Smart Cities initiative in their focus on providing security guidance for smart cities, and we will continue our work on providing security guidance for the IoT as a whole, to include recommendations for securing IoT cloud services, research on the uses for blockchain technology to secure the IoT, and guidance on how to design and develop secure IoT components. Keep a look-out for new publications from our WG.  

Join the CSA IoTWG.

Brian Russell (twitter: @pbjason9) is Chief Engineer/CyberSecurity for Leidos.

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