Canadian towns and cities aren’t prepared for the coming global clash of restless young, urban mobile users, the rise of the digital economy, online social networks and cyber security, an IT conference has been told.

“The fact that cyber security is currently broken means your ability to ascertain solutions that are practical and important to you is becoming challenging,” Rafal Rohozinski, principal at the Ottawa-based SecDev Group risk and intelligence consultancy and a senior fellow at the International Institute of Strategic Studies told the annual conference of the Ontario branch of the Municipal Information Systems Association (MISA) on Tuesday.

Rafal Rohozinski

That’s why “there’s a gold rush” on for cyber security solutions, he said.

More than a trillion dollars will be spent in the next five years “looking for those brass rings” that solve a range of fundamental technological and societal problems, he said.

“There’s a new form of empowerment that is fundamentally altering the relations between citizens and states that has an impact down to local level and municipalities,” he told the conference, which is being held this year in Toronto.

He said the Internet is re-shaping the world, he said, along with changes in governance, urbanization and climate change. But one of the biggest movers is demographics: There’s a generation of people who have only known a 24×7 Internet who are highly motivated for change for a number of reasons: Some want municipal services to be delivered through smart phones as easily as they are ordering products. Others, who live in countries which are either fragile or undergoing a severe governance crisis, see the Internet as “a very real a mechanism to address their economic frustrations political ideals or social ideals.”

What’s notable, he added, are the number of this generation who have joined like communities on social media platforms, particularly Facebook.

Social media gives “opportunity for people to belong to communities they want to rather than they were born into,” he said. That’s going to have political and social effects that will reverberate across countries and across levels of governance.”

At the same time criminals and terrorists are taking advantage of the weakness of the Internet. “Rather than talk about cyber crime,” Rohozinski said, “we have to recognize we’re dealing with a globalized cyber opportunity environment where actors which are highly motivated … They can take advantage of this infrastructure in ways that we haven’t seen before.” —

For example, he noted, in 2013 alleged Syrian hackers took claim for breaking into the Associated Press’ Twitter account and planting a report that President Barack Obama had been injured in an explosion at the White House, making stock markets temporarily dip.

The reason criminals flourish is Internet governance is the “wild west,” he said. “In the absence of a global treaty that allows law enforcement to act seamlessly across borders, effectively jurisdictions can be used as a way of hiding activities for cyber crime to continue ad infanitum.”

Meanwhile cities are becoming places there’s new economic activity – and what he calls “new ways of solving the logistics of large numbers of people living together, such as distruptive digital services like Uber.

However, he warned “that centre for innovation in terms of municipal governance and online services is not going to be in North American, and its not going to be in Canada. There are 50 cities in China alone that have population greater than Canada, he pointed out. Only in huge cities will there be enough scale to support new digital services, he said, not in cities of 100,000.

But he told the IT pros in the audience, “that petrie dish of innovation will feed back to the kinds of things you will be doing in Canada. So recognizing the innovation your going to be driving may be coming from elsewhere is actually a very important part of your job because the ability to innovate locally doesn’t happen to scale here.”

Still, he concluded on a sombre note.

There’s a “fundamental transformation” coming in the way people are going to mange their lives and economic transactions, he warned “and not recognizing mobile as being the locus of it, you do at your peril.”

In an interview Rohozinski said infosec pros should be educating their political leaders on what;s coming.

“There’s a complex of converging risks were seeing at the municipal level. Old public infrastructure, which is now becoming connected to IoT as a way of bringing efficiencies, demand for new services that citizens now expect – I can get Lyft from my cell phone why can’t I get the same services at the municipal level? — and the fact that municipalities now have to deal with data retention and privacy … all of these require investments, strategies and policies that simply aren’t in place.

“Without councils and local elected members being aware of those requirements it really means they’re not going to be addressed in a way they should be, which then can lead to [data] breaches and compromises.”

“The challenge everyone is going to have is that this costs money. There’s a misunderstanding that somehow IT makes things more efficient, cheaper, and it does. But for a governance institution it requires rules, public support, which ultimately requires funding … we need to prepare for this information age, and we’re nowhere near being ready for that.”

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