One of Vancouver's city buses offering free Wi-Fi
One of Vancouver's city buses offering free Wi-Fi

As the global economy has slowed an increasing number of local governments have launched smart city initiatives, hoping not only to modernize their infrastructure but also to attract new business.

But linking municipal services such as traffic lights, video cameras and the like also comes with cyber security risks. A Trustwave survey this summer of 203 infosec pros working at U.S. state and local governments shows it’s on their minds.

Twenty-seven per cent said publicly-run Wi-Fi networks are the most at risk, 18.6 per cent said the smart grid itself, 12.7 per cent said the traffic system and — not surprisingly since news reports show video cameras are a leading source of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks — 11,3 per cent surveillance cameras.

Respondents were almost evenly split — 55 to 45 per cent — on whether cities devote adequate cyber security resources for smart city initiatives. Just under one-third blamed lack of sufficient budget, while the same number pointed at “politics” interfering with decision-making. Twenty-three per cent said the cyber risks aren’t well understood.

Of those jurisdictions that have smart city projects, just over 20 per cent have public Wi-Fi systems, almost 18 per cent have surveillance cameras, 11.6 per cent have so-called smart lighting,11.3 per cent offer apps for city services, 10 per cent have transportation projects and 9.1 per cent have open data initiatives and/or water treatment projects.

“Municipalities are dazzled by the promises of the Industrial Internet of Things, which can bring cost savings and improved efficiency,”Rekha Shenoy, vice-president and general manager of industrial cyber security at Tripwire’s parent company, Belden. “However, the dazzle will wear off quickly if smart city initiatives can’t keep up with new threats, regulatory requirements and hidden costs. In order to succeed, smart cities must actively protect their critical infrastructure.”