India's Smart Cities Need Smarter Security Systems

by Sohini Bagchi    Jan 29, 2016

smart security

The Government of India announced its list of the first 20 cities that will get central funding under the Smart Cities program. These 20 cities are from the list of 97 that had been chosen for the project in August. The concept of smart cities as a means to enhance citizen’s quality of life has been increasingly recognized by the Modi Government and policy makers in the last one year. While the cities are getting smarter, it is also estimated that within the same timeframe, there will be millions of connected devices that will transform the way we live and work. The result is: the cyber security threat is expected to increase manifold in the coming months. The need of the hour therefore is the use and implementation of robust cyber security solutions and practices to make smart cities safer.

In the Journal of Advanced Research authored by Adel S. Elmaghraby (July 2014), cyber criminals are introducing new sophisticated viruses on a regular basis, that exploit security vulnerabilities, the most recognizable formats of cyber-attacks include personal data theft, copyright infringement, fraud and virus sharing, and the most important being attacks against government property and information. With cities adopting more technological solutions to become smarter, the chances of the city becoming more vulnerable to a cyber-attack is higher. The need for cities to develop tactics and counter-measures to best prepare against possible cyber-attacks and educate citizens on how to react while under attack is vital, he said.

Read more: Smart Cities: Benefits And Challenges

Elaborating on this Koichiro Koide, MD, NEC India explained, “Ensuring and maintaining safety and security of a nation is crucial for citizens, as well as to attract business growth and investment opportunities to boost the economy. As one of the first companies to promote the Smart City concept, NEC believes that ICT is crucial to create a sustainable and secure society,” he said.

Koide added that biometric recognition technologies such as fingerprint and face recognition will serve an important role in providing services that are highly secure and convenient. For example, NEC’s biometric technology is used in 40 countries worldwide for fighting crime, preventing fraud and improving public safety. Its face recognition technology is independently recognized as among fastest and most accurate facial matching software according to latest tests done by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

As Europe celebrated Data Privacy Day on January 28, a new report into smart cities and their cyber security risks has been published by the new Government Data Forum, a panel of industry experts, with Minister Dara Murphy government, with warnings abounding for future society. Maynooth University’s Prof Rob Kitchin, author of the report recommended a targeted approach for privacy and security issues, with policy and regulation at the forefront of what’s required.

“To date, the approach to privacy and security in the context of smart cities has been haphazard and uncoordinated,” said Kitchin. “In many cases, the issues are paid lip service. I advocate a much more systematic approach that aims to gain the benefits smart city technologies offer, whilst minimizing the potential risks.” The report stated that a smart city with new technologies requires society “to think about the privacy and security questions they raise”.

Read more: Smart Cities: The Way Ahead For India

A quick analysis of the National Cyber Security Policy of India 2013 reveals that it is suffering from many shortcomings. There are no Cyber Security Disclosure Norms in India that may require individuals and companies to share details of cyber-attacks and cyber breaches, said a report by the Civil Liberties Protection In Cyberspace (CLPIC). The report added that there is also an urgent need to formulate the Cyber Security Policy of India 2015 as the Cyber Security Trends are very alarming in India. Even there is no implementable Telecom Security Policy of India as on date and telecom related issues are getting complex day by day, it said.

However the Modi government said that efficient urban mobility and public transport, IT connectivity, e-governance and citizen participation will assured in these cities. The government also said that Rs 3 lakh crore will be spent in the next five years to develop the towns to provide world class infrastructure, sustainable environment and smart solutions.

In such a scenario, experts believe, as cities bring new services online which feature multiple systems, and greater connectivity they are setting up even bigger targets for cyber crusader. Cities will have to increase their investment in ensuring the digital safety of their cities and data of their citizens.