Emergency alerts, street video surveillance, and smart traffic signals have emerged as among the riskiest smart city technologies in a report by University of California, Berkeley.
The Cybersecurity Risks of Smart City Technologies: What Do Experts Think? asked 76 cybersecurity experts to rank different technologies according to underlying technical vulnerabilities, their attractiveness to potential attackers, and the potential impact of a successful serious cyberattack.
Cyber-risks versus potential gains
Led by an interdisciplinary team of scholars from the university, the report recommends that local officials should consider whether cyber-risks outweigh the potential gains of technology adoption on a case-by-case basis. “And exercise particular caution when technologies are both vulnerable in technical terms and constitute attractive targets to capable potential attackers because the impacts of an attack are likely to be great,” said the authors.
Other technologies in order of ranking (4th to 9th) were: water consumption tracking; smart tolling; public transit open data; gunshot detection; smart waste or recycling bins; and satellite water leak detection.
The report notes that cybersecurity experts indicated that some smart city technologies present greater risks than others. Such differences can be attributed to the fact that those technologies perceived as more vulnerable in technical terms are also most likely to generate the largest impacts in the event of a successful attack, and to attract the attention of effective threat actors.
“Local officials receive a barrage of information about smart city solutions to problems such as traffic congestion, crime, and inefficient use of power and water”
The experts’ rankings of the underlying technical vulnerability of the nine technologies indicated that smart waste and recycling bins and satellite water leakage systems are perceived to be less vulnerable than the other technologies.
Emergency and security alerts were perceived as most vulnerable and satellite leak detection was ranked as least vulnerable in technical terms.
The technologies perceived by respondents as most vulnerable to cyberattacks also ranked as most likely to generate significant impacts in the event of a successful attack. Emergency and security alert systems, street video surveillance, and smart traffic lights were ranked as significantly more vulnerable to cyberattacks; moreover, cyberattacks on
these technologies were viewed as likely to generate a significantly higher impact if successful.
In contrast, smart waste or recycling bins and satellite water leak detection were ranked as significantly less vulnerable and lower impact compared to other technologies.
“Local officials receive a barrage of information about smart city solutions to problems such as traffic congestion, crime, and inefficient use of power and water,” said Alison Post, associate professor of political science and global metropolitan studies at UC Berkeley, one of the report’s co-authors. “How should they consider the risks of cyber attack that such new systems may introduce? This report will help local-level policymakers better understand how cyber-risks vary among different smart city technologies.”
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