Do We Really Need A New Holistic Security Perspective for Smart Cities?

Asst. Prof. Fahri Erenel

The simulations concerning that the growing urbanisation and population movements will have resulted in addition of 2.5 billion people in current world population by the year of 2050 have increased each passing day. Nowadays, it has been seen that the borders of the cities in which more than 50 % of world population resides are expanding every day and inclosing sub-population regions surrounding core centre and progressively greater cities have come into existence. In the researches on utilisation of resources which have run short over growing urbanisation and retaining of welfare level, “Smart City Solutions” has risen to prominence gradually. The foremost local governments of the world are seeking for solutions to the increase of needs stemming from complexified urban life with the help of technology and digital transformation.

We are witnessing the rapid growth of smart cities which may be defined as human and infrastructure-based cities holding numerous functions from safe buildings to automation-supported energy resources, from transportation to public security. It has been anticipated that more than 40 smart cities will have been built up all over the world by the year of 2025. The Bristol City of England has launched a billion-pound project named “Bristol is Open” so as to design the smart city of the future, while India has announced that they have initiated the studies for go-live of a great many of smart city projects.

Although urbanisation is a wished concept, the most important aspects might be overlooked when evaluated singly. In this term, “smart security” stands out as a factor becoming quite crucial. Security threats have become complexified by developments even though security system industry remains to change. Security systems being supported by the most modern technological infrastructure are required so as to be protected against not only psychical but also virtual complicated attacks. One of the results of crowds in today’s growing cities is that keeping the security of the people who have preferred urban life at maximum level cannot be ensured with the earlier security methods.

This development, while being empowered by the innovations in information technology, poses a threat to our security and confidentiality expectations despite that creates new economic and social opportunities. A smart city is at the same time a secured city which develops security and confidentiality performance of the city for its own citizens. A secured city must be a city which appeals investments for development and growth of the city by creating attractive economic and social environment.

People sustain their communication with each other vie smart phones and devices. Smart energometers, security devices and smart applications are utilised in many cities. Vehicles, houses, public places and other social systems stay the course of whole connectivity known as “Internet of Things”. All these will be leading to significant improvements in life quality. City infrastructure and services must be replaced with inter-connected systems for observance, control and automation so that the effectiveness of these devices can be enhanced. The integrated systems avail for public security, response speed and plans of emergency.

Security and confidentiality, in this regard, are one of the most important matters to pay attention to. Security contains the illegal penetrations to the information and attacks causing physical outages in the works of service providers. As digitalised citizens are provided with further information with respect to locations and events, the factor of confidentiality has started to disappear. Confidentiality protector systems, which triggers emergency response by gathering information when required, are technological difficulties always handling with security systems. Start-up of those is a must for the smart cities in which we would like to dwell. Within the context of observance, smart cities monitors the citizens by gathering data concerning many different sorts of factors about urban life with the help of the sensors strategically stationed all over the city. The data transferred from these sensors are proceeded with various models and used by government and other local units to manage difficulties in the issues such as crime prevention, traffic management, energy consumption, and waste management. Such technologies have been implemented in many cities including Santa Cruz, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Stockholm. In execution of law, information collection strategies used for intelligence accumulation for government observance with smart city technologies are key for intelligence-based inspections. Some of the technologies used in smart cities within this purpose, are closed circuit monitoring systems used in London and Dubai, smart traffic sensors used in New York and software used for crime prediction in California and Santa Cruz.

Social media analysis has become another intelligence gathering field for security units. Smart phones in use of millions of people have speeded the information flow up in an advanced level. Yet, there are several misleading factors to pay attention to even in the utilisation of smart technologies. One of the best examples of this was experienced in terrorist attacks taking place at Boston Marathon in USA in 2013. Fast and widespread distribution of information over social media and other multimedia systems can provide benefits in swift revealing the suspects; on the other side, it can distract the investigation directions to different points owing to manipulations of crime groups.

Another important issue is how to stop terrorist groups from penetrating into all these systems collecting data. Although most cities have emergency plans against disasters such as flood, earthquake, they do not have any plans to start up in case of cyber-attacks. This human-driven attack might cause more chaotic catastrophes than disasters cost by the nature.  As seen, while developed security measures are preliminary conditions for functionality of a smart city, prevention for these security systems and devices to be seized and to be manipulated is a separate pre-condition.

Figure1: Traffic Jam as a result of broken traffic lamps, Xi’an, China. Hacking of smart traffic lamp systems may cause such chaos. (Picture: China Photo Press/ GettyImages)xian

Cesar Cerrudo, one of the security research companies, has found out that 200.000 traffic control sensors from Washington to Melbourne have vulnerabilities which hackers might comfortably penetrate into as a conclusion of a conducted research. Hackers might manipulate the traffic signals by getting the advantage of these security gaps or might result in fatal accidents by changing the roadway signs like speed limits. Likewise, data thieves who get the benefit of security gaps in smart systems such as camera systems of face detection and easily hacked security systems might contribute to committing of crimes threatening the society. Considering these instances, it would not be wrong to say that for hackers a system with security gap is more appealing rather than a customised system. However, since all systems are integrated with one another in smart cities, a hacker penetrating into one of the systems may cause a great chaos with domino effect. Hence, security strategy must be approached as a whole and meanwhile each of security gaps, one by one, for every system must be tried to be minimised and even eliminated.

Author: Fahri Erenel
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