October 8, 2015 – IoT, Smart Cities and Construction Industry Cyber Security

Securing Smart Cities, SSC in short, is a fantastic initiative and I think there’s a global need towards what this initiative can offer. Allow me to share a personal encounter. I chatted with scientists who were given the responsibility in making the Internet Of Things (IoT) flourish within the construction industry. IoT is an integral part of the Smart City concept. Isn’t it nice for the bosses of construction firms resting on a sofa in the comfort of an air-conditioned room yet able to monitor real-time of the construction progress without bearing the heat accompanied by a hot afternoon sun?

This will be made possible by the vast deployment of camera sensors. The challenges faced by the scientist are obvious; high durability sensors based on the harsh physic environment it is in as well as not discounting the operational speed of sensor feeds. The Smart Construction site only provides just a cosy sofa experience? That’s not quite the case. With this smart capability, it can also detect building anomalies such as the building is tilting in a way it should not be and with this feed, remedies can be kicked in to rectify the issue. As a result, this saves precious lives of the people both working and living there.

Great! Kudos to Smart Concept! I then asked about the cyber security of the sensing systems. I was given a straight “NO”. It is never the fault of the scientists. Key development remains to be the sensing functionality. This is where I see the gap of both short-term and long-term benefits. In the longer run where we are looking at zero authentication and authorisation sensors, even kids with amateur computer hacking skills will be good enough to break into the sensors and make un-warranted actions. Needless to say about experienced hackers. The disruptions will be chaotic if that happens every now and then.

While hacks of refrigerators, home/car appliances are headlines grabbing, IoT devices within organizations production environment could be the next headline, shifting IoT attacks to business use cases instead of smart consumer centric devices.

There is also a need to harmonize cyber and physical security since smart devices are physical in nature.

Hence, for any country keen to drive smart cities, both cyber and physical security should always be considered in the upstream of infrastructure building. It is no easy feat but it is not something that we can avoid.

Thus, with this initiative, I encourage organisations to tap on it and collaborate with the ultimate aim of securing smart cities. I foresee South Asia is a market with immerse potential to be engaged in the Smart City Concept.

Alan Seow
Cyber Security Practitioner