5 Requirements to Secure a Smart City

From improving safety and alleviating traffic congestion to producing less waste and creating a healthier environment, smart city technology can greatly enhance the quality of life for residents. With these benefits, urban areas are committing significant resources to upgrade their infrastructure and capabilities, allocating an estimated $189 billion on smart city initiatives worldwide between 2020 and 2023. More than half of this spending is concentrated on building resilient energy infrastructure, using data to enhance public safety and making transportation systems more intelligent.

The connected systems, sensors and devices that comprise the backbone of a smart city and make our lives easier are also potential targets for cyberthreats. To counter these risks, government leaders, urban planners and other key stakeholders should make cybersecurity principles an integral part of their smart city’s governance, design and operations.

Here are five integral components for cybersecurity in smart cities.


Digital Platform

Smart city platforms exist across the enterprise level. These platforms perform many functions, including analytics, remote asset monitoring, performance management and decision support. At a minimum, the functionality of a smart city platform must include:

  • Visualization
  • Application enablement
  • Data management

The platform also may include cybersecurity, device management, network management, application development, a geographic information system, mobility, reporting, simulation, back-office functionality and more.

Within this connected ecosystem, the platform manages contextual relationships between people, devices and systems. The platform should be designed to enable cities to identify, authenticate and authorize people and devices with an adaptive, behavior-based security feature. For an extra layer of security, the platform can also use geospatial technologies to incorporate location-based awareness. These safety features are integral for creating trust among users that their data and privacy are secure.



When designing a smart city, the concept of privacy-by-design should be woven throughout all processes, systems and technologies. The ultimate goal of privacy-by-design is to protect citizen’s privacy and to let them control who has access to their data on the network.

Take health care, for example. A patient can access his or her medical records online, and then choose which practitioners have access to them. Those records are viewable by a doctor or nurse, but they cannot save the files. This enables a patient to revoke access if and when he or she is no longer being treated by that practice and retain ownership over medical records and private health data.

Another principle of privacy-by-design is restricting the collection of personal data, employing stronger data encryption processes and anonymizing personal data.


Intelligence and Analysis Platform

Cybersecurity is a 24-7-365 endeavor. Smart cities must stay vigilant and proactively seek to detect threats before they can infiltrate, disrupt or permanently damage the network. This means looking beyond internal data and assessing external events and databases. Tools like behavioral intelligence, machine learning, and artificial intelligence can help cities monitor and interpret the terabytes of data that they collect to spot anomalies and respond appropriately.

Having access to these intelligence sources empowers the entities tasked with protecting a smart city to gain a more holistic picture of the threat landscape so they can craft more informed scenario planning and responses. An integrated platform is also essential for agencies to share information and collaborate in real time. For example, the FBI may have a lead about a potential threat while the police have detected a legitimate cyberthreat to the local port authority. With a single platform to accrue and process that data, the smart city and its citizens can be better protected from threats turning into incidents.


Response and Resilience

The time to test your smart city’s security is well before a cyberattack is underway. To be prepared, smart cities should have a plan in place for responding to a wide variety of scenarios. This plan should include fail-safe systems and advanced cyber forensics capabilities for tracing and containing a threat, so it can be prevented from spreading to other machines or systems. In case one communications system is rendered inoperable, a backup system should be identified in advance so agencies and partners can remain in close contact as they manage the threat.

One method for training teams to handle a cyberattack is to simulate attacks to gain experience managing these high-stakes, and often stressful, situations. These exercises can identify gaps in the response plan or additional training measures needed for individual team members.


Competencies and Awareness

Having a deep pool of talent for your cyber workforce is imperative for smart cities to be able to maintain operations, innovate and fend off attacks. Cybersecurity skills are necessary not just for those working in IT, but for everyone working at the intersection of the digital and physical worlds in a smart city, such as civil engineers and transportation managers.

Cities must ensure they are offering education and training in these skills through their school systems and higher education institutions to ensure a consistent pipeline of talent. For traditional cybersecurity roles, the National Institute of Standards and Technology created the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework to map skills into categories, specialty areas and work roles. Cities can reference this framework to identify gaps in their cyber skills and create a plan for filling those roles.


IDB Programs to Enhance Cybersecurity in Your Smart City  

The Institute for Defense and Business offers specific programs that teach best practices and techniques to avoid the threats and potential risks that arise from a digitized world. Specifically, the IU-IDB Cyber Risk Management Program is designed to introduce participants to the multifaceted cyber risks with a focus on harnessing the benefits while mitigating the risks of emerging technologies. The benefits of the program include being equipped with a toolbox of cybersecurity best practices to manage risk exposure, developing confidence to work well on cybersecurity solutions and learning cutting-edge technology to expand your understanding of key functional areas relating to cybersecurity. Additionally, the LOGTECH Advanced program  will transform your organization’s approach to technology and innovation in logistics, providing new tools and techniques to help better manage potential threats.


About IDB

The Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) delivers educational programs and research to teach, challenge and inspire leaders who work with and within the defense enterprise to achieve next-level results for their organization. IDB features curriculum in Logistics, Supply Chain and Life Cycle Management, Complex Industrial Leadership, Strategic Studies, Global Business and Defense Studies, Continuous Process Improvement, and Stabilization and Economic Reconstruction. Visit www.IDB.org or contact us on our website for more information.



Smart cities make life better for residents, but a cyberattack can disrupt everything from commerce to transit to public safety. Learn the five cybersecurity considerations cities need to incorporate in their smart city strategy. #IDB #SmartCities #CyberSecurity



Smart cities make life better for residents, but a cyberattack can disrupt everything from commerce to transit to public safety. Learn the five cybersecurity considerations cities need to incorporate in their smart city strategy. #IDB #SmartCities #CyberSecurity

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