Smart cities are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, say experts

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned that while smart cities are a benefit to citizens, they are also potential targets for cyber-attacks due to the critical functions they provide and sensitive data they process.

The cyber experts said that the compromise of a single system in a smart city could potentially have a negative impact across the network, if badly designed.

Smart cities and connected rural environments use networked technology like the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors.

Examples of smart city technology include the use of sensors to monitor pollution levels to reduce emissions, parking sensors to offer real-time information on space availability and traffic lights configured to cut congestion.

This technology can help councils work towards net zero carbon, deliver a more sustainable environment and improve service efficiency.

The centre has published a set of principles outlining how to design, manage, and build smart cities that are resilient to cyber-attacks.

The Connected Places Cyber Security Principles aims to mitigate the risks by helping CISOs, cyber security architects and other relevant personnel consider the high level security requirements and principles that should govern smart cities in the UK.

“Local authorities are using sensors and intelligent systems to improve our lives and make our cities more efficient and environmentally friendly,” said Dr Ian Levy, technical director, NCSC. “While these benefits should be embraced, it’s important to take steps now to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and their potentially serious impact on these interconnected networks.”

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman said: “New digital technology is going to improve our lives and help protect the environment, but it is essential we take steps now to make connected places more resilient to cyber-attacks.

Warman added: “Local leaders and innovators should follow the National Cyber Security Centre's expert guidance so our cities, towns and rural areas can unlock the benefits of smart, internet-connected infrastructure in a safe and secure way.”

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