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Smart cities and the importance of security

The concept of the smart city is evolving at pace. Already there are smart cities standing tall on the digital horizon, reshaping citizen service delivery and infrastructure through intelligent and connected digital services and solutions. In 2022, Shanghai was listed as the premier smart city in the world closely followed by Seoul, Barcelona, Beijing and New York. 

This is due to these cities’ commitment to transport, infrastructure, energy, lighting, city management, urban connectivity and smart development. Each one offers up immense potential, transforming the standard of living, healthcare, and the local economy.

However, smart cities come with smart digital technologies and the never-ending security threat. A report released by Guidehouse in 2021 warned that this rapid growth in interconnected systems and digital ecosystems could result in a ‘cascading failure across key city systems’ if one is breached or hacked. This could then bring the entire city to a staggering and very expensive halt. The report also suggests that many of these smart cities, while clever and impressive, are not paying as close attention to security as they should. To bring down an entire city, cause accidents or prevent access to healthcare a hacker needs only find that one device that hasn’t had its password changed or been updated for a while. Or phish that one person who happens to have access to essential systems.

That is how easy it is for smart to become stuck and for citizens to be left hanging while systems are reset, rebooted and ransomware is paid.

Which is why security needs to be more than just an afterthought and it definitely needs to become part and parcel of the culture of the city and its citizens. People are key to ensuring that security is maintained throughout smart city systems and platforms. If they understand the importance of their role when interacting with digital devices and entering their passwords, then they are less likely to be the reason why a critical system was hacked.

This means that the smart city approach has to be on two very clear levels. The first is the mega-investment into sweeping systems and magnificent Internet of Things (IoT) platforms and robust digital architecture. The second is the granular level where people are given the tools they need to secure their own fabric and architecture with ease. Tools that empower them to remain in control of their data and passwords within a digital world.

One such tool is Keeper Security. It’s designed to protect individuals by storing their data and passwords in a secure space and it is easy to use, which lowers the barrier to entry. Whether living in a smart city or just the local village, this is a tool that every person should get used to. It’s smart enough to hold onto passwords across all systems and keep all this data rigorously secure so that users aren’t at risk. 

This can be used by the business as well, providing a handy and secure tool for employees who have to remember multiple passwords across different systems. It’s a smart way of embedding a security culture from the ground up, while actually protecting people from themselves. No more 12345 to access a secure system.

While the smart city has yet to become a visible reality in South Africa, things are slowly changing which makes this the right time to embed a security culture into citizens. Now is the time for them to recognise the risks and the role they play, and to understand how important it is to become their own first line of defence. Smart citizens, smart city. 

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