The Cybersecurity Challenges Facing Smart Cities


By Zachary Amos, Features Editor at ReHack

Cities across the world have always faced challenges with cybersecurity. Because the number of malicious actors increases when cities become more interconnected, cities must enact best cybersecurity practices to make them less vulnerable to attacks.

Let’s explore some of the cybersecurity challenges smart cities face as attacks become more innovative and cities become interconnected.

The State of Cybersecurity for Smart Cities

City infrastructure has typically been a major target for hackers to deploy cyberattacks. Cybercriminals often look to disrupt operations of law enforcement agencies and other areas of infrastructure, such as public transportation.

As cities adopt the newest technologies, such as cloud services, the Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G, “smart cities” is a term that better describes them. With new technologies come new cybersecurity concerns, and cities must address these concerns to protect their infrastructure and their citizens.

Smart cities set out to improve citizens’ quality of life. Technology provides various solutions for cities, such as enhancing smart buildings, the energy grid, water and waste management, and public transportation and traffic systems.

It’s expected that smart cities will be necessary to accommodate the growing population, reliance on electronic devices, and the need for more convenient, efficient infrastructure. They’re cities of the future and will focus on the three D’s: digital tech, data, and design thinking.

Smart Cities and Cybersecurity Challenges to Overcome

So, what are some of the challenges smart cities will have to overcome in the future? Below, we’ll discuss examples of the obstacles smart cities face as cybersecurity becomes a more prevalent issue across industries.

1. Striking a Balance Between Convenience and Risk

While every city strives to be more connected, and interconnectedness does offer plenty of benefits for its residents, it’s also important for cities to weigh the risks involved with using the latest technology.

For example, customers may enjoy the convenience of looking at their utility bills all in one place online — but what if a hacker infiltrates that website? It can end up causing more problems for residents and limit their ability to pay bills promptly.

Both convenience and risk play significant roles in implementing and using new tech. Cities looking to leverage technology to benefit their citizens and stakeholders need to assess the risks when technology fails to work properly and plan accordingly.

2. Developing a Connected Security Strategy

When smart cities leverage data and have connected systems, there needs to be a comprehensive, connected security approach implemented. A converged security approach is more necessary now than ever, and with technology still developing, anticipating new cybersecurity threats will be of the utmost importance.

Speaking of converged security solutions, one example includes breaking down silos and allowing different teams within the city to work together towards the same goals. Combining physical and digital security will make smart cities safer in the long run.

3. Fostering Cyber Resilience With Standards and Guidelines

New standards and guidelines are needed for smart cities to foster cybersecurity resilience. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cyber resiliency is defined as the ability to withstand, anticipate, and respond to cyber threats promptly.

Cities will need to adopt innovative methods of ensuring cyber resilience and prioritizing it. Cities that are cyber resilient will keep operations running smoothly.

4. Addressing Technological Vulnerabilities

Because smart cities rely on emerging technologies, they must address any shortcomings of those technologies. It’s commonly understood that no piece of technology is perfect. Finding the vulnerabilities in some of the technologies used, such as the IoT, 5G, and other smart devices, will help prepare cities for future challenges.

For example, suppose a city implements IoT sensors to gather data about waste management. If those sensors fail to work, managing waste would likely be inefficient, or trash would not be picked up according to schedule. Therefore, when smart cities address these potential problems early on, they’ll be able to respond more quickly and effectively.

While the various challenges listed above are only a handful of examples, it’s important to recognize that many of them can be overcome with proper planning. Smart cities will be commonplace in the future, but more work needs to be done to reach that point.

Cities Transitioning to Smart Cities

Device manufacturers, vendors, and city governments will need to work collaboratively to solve these potential challenges. It’ll be interesting to see how existing cities transitioning to smart cities will handle these challenges.


As the Features Editor at ReHack, Zac Amos writes about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other tech topics.


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