As our societies are embracing Industry 4.0, everything is getting digitized and automated. It’s now possible to perform an increasing number of daily activities — anything from our jobs, education, and even many of our hobbies — online. Unfortunately, the same goes for criminals: Cybercrime is on the rise, and it’s expected to cost the world USD 10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
While the rise of smart cities provides countless benefits, this tech-powered growth also accelerates the risks and vulnerabilities regarding security. Especially as we’re still in the early stages of digitization, cities that are in the process of turning smart are often donned with imperfect infrastructure. Shortcomings of these new systems might make cities an attractive target for cybercriminals.
Particularly organizations like city councils, and local and municipal governments suffer thousands of successful attacks every day. These cause them to lose money and disrupt essential services such as emergency call centers or public transportation — but can be prevented.
Taking a Holistic Approach
“Just as San Francisco has prepared for earthquakes for decades and Tokyo for tsunamis, so too must cyber-resilience and safety become a core component of disaster response plans for all cities,” argue Marc Goodman of Future Crimes Insitute and Robert Muggah of Igarapé Institute on the World Economic Forum.
Given the importance of digital attacks as a security priority, fighting cybercrime in cities requires a holistic approach to outsmart criminals, starting at the policy level.
A comprehensive strategy to involve all stakeholders in a city — such as public institutions, businesses, municipal authorities, and of course, the people — must be in place.
Security As an Architectural Priority
“Prevention is better than cure,” goes a common adage in medicine, and the same could be said about security, too. The best way to fight criminals is to starve them of opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities.
“Security needs to be part of the design and architecture of smart systems and cities from the onset, as it is harder to reengineer than to do it right from the start,” says Maria Vello, Chief Operating Officer of Cyber Defence Alliance.
Cybersecurity protocols such as plans, rules, and measures must be core considerations in every step of designing connected buildings and cities to protect residents against digital threats.
Creating a Culture to Bolster Security
For cybercriminals, any connected device, or anything with an IP address, can become a target. These include the electronic devices that have become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, including laptops, phones, smart TVs, and even printers or speakers.
Furthermore, from costly hacks to devastating data breaches, most cybercrimes happen due to human error, which also makes them preventable. In fact, the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that as much as 85 percent of the data breaches were due to “human factor”.
Hence, while the role of governments and municipal authorities in fighting cybercrimes in cities is not questionable, personal responsibility is also of paramount importance. Therefore, it’s imperative to have more conversations about cybercrime and encourage cyber-safe behavior to cultivate a culture of security at a personal and societal level.
Cybercrime, Real Consequences
All in all, even though it might take place online, cybercrime in our cities is a risk as big and costly as flooding or earthquake, and it must be treated as such. However, it’s a fight that cities can win with the right technological solutions, comprehensive strategy, and multi-stakeholder cooperation.
Minimizing cybersecurity risks can save cities from collectively losing billions of dollars, which can then be channelized into better services and higher life quality for citizens.