How hackers could turn a ‘smart city’ in a house of cards

File photo downtown Los Angeles


With hackers targeting city council systems, there is a growing fear that the so-called ” high-tech “smart city” of the future could be turned into a house of cards.

Cities are the adoption of the artificial intelligence and machine learning to help with the infrastructure, but security experts warn that there is a risk of hackers compromising networks, causing widespread pandemonium, and even infiltrate the government systems.

Here is an example. Say a metro area like Minneapolis decision to connect a highway system for robot cars, which are then directed automatically by the GPS to slow down, find alternate routes, or even finding a parking space and wait for congestion to disappear. It is a nirvana state, but it is also a nightmare scenario. A hacker would be able to find an unsecured access point and, without much effort, tap into the transportation and instruction of all the cars drive much faster.


With a smart city, the goal is to connect to multiple systems. Lighting in a park to be able to connect with motion sensors that monitor pedestrians, who in turn can alert the police to send more patrols in that area. A hacker with access could instruct all the police to stay away from that area or break in the lighting and turn the entire park is dark for a few hours.

“The biggest advantage will come with large levels of interconnectedness, which is an artificial intelligence app to determine exactly which street lights should be illuminated as cyclists traverse along local bike paths or the have of smart signs to communicate with autonomous vehicles,” says Duncan Greatwood, CEO of security company Xage.

But nevertheless, this incredible interconnectivity — with urban services for energy, utilities, sanitation, health care, architecture, and much more — also poses a great danger.


One of the most disturbing scenarios? Alexandru Balan, a researcher at the security firm Bitdefender, explained to Fox News that some of the smart cities connected power meters, but the city usually mandates that these meters to connect via a consumer mobile network via a SIM card that is similar to that of the one on your smartphone. A hacker can find a way to shut down the power to an entire city, and possibly compromising only one of these meters.

Public kiosks that use Wi-Fi, billboards that display emergency messages, highway cameras used to read license plates on cars, they all help a city to relay information to citizens and help the officials of the city, but they also make prime targets for criminals.

Dana Simberkoff, a security officer at AvePoint, says that there is an incredible risk. As soon as a hacker is a smart city, he or she could access military information such as troop locations, when dignitaries would visit, the border of information, and the address of the government financial data.


“The hack of this information can even the existence of potential threats of national security or terrorist activities, and the potential for the unintended or unauthorized disclosure of this sensitive information continues to grow,” she says. If corporate security measures, she argues that it is best for cities to assume networks can be hacked, and for the development of a multi-layered approach, so that a compromised system does not lead to a city-wide security breach.

Greatwood says the answer for a part of a smart city as “hardened” that they should not have to break-or at least very difficult to hack. Lives are at stake, ” he says.

Unfortunately, all the experts say that the smart city connections are becoming more complex, not managed with tight security, and yet is evolving rapidly. A major hack, which is shut down municipal services, may be the only way to wake up city officials to the dangers.


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