23 March, 2018 – Gradational Move towards SMART City

A nation venturing into Smart City, without doubt, local or federal government plays a big part. For instance, I have come across a local government, switching part of its infocomm development authority that used to come under the purview of Communications and Information Ministry to the Prime Minister Office (PMO) as its technology agency. The PMO existing Smart Nation Programme Office was absorbed into a new PMO government technology agency. The agency, hence, was given more political focus and the capacity to better coordinate the push towards a SMART NATION.

I have also come across the first international airport terminal to fully embark on the smart journey by embracing Airport Smart Check-In. It is such a seamless process and almost zero staff are required for the usual baggage check-in/luggage tag work. Nonetheless, no system should go live without testing. Thus, for a start, there was a total of eight airlines participated in the Smart Check-In trial. It began the first step towards a Smart Airport and naturally, the system will be under the umbrella of smart infrastructures with smart components embedded, like any integrated Internet of Things (IOT). This provides a data processing capability where it will aggregate data and /extract insights to support human decisions and/or triggering of an automated responses.

As such, cyber security for securing smart airports is important at this juncture. Smart Check-In inevitably ties with baggage handling. It uses associated Industrial Control System (ICS) and within the ICS, perhaps a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. An attack rendered successful on the ICS/SCADA system, a malicious command may send to halt baggage handling, or disrupt normal operational procedures of baggage handling. It would also facilitate an attack on inter-connected airport infrastructure. The resulting cascading effect could lead to significant disruption in airport functions.

Securing a Smart Airport Terminal therefore is a shared cyber responsibility. A collaborative model involving regulator, airlines and vendors to define an appropriate cyber security governance approach for aviation system’s resilience is required.

Whether a SMART or Non-SMART Nation, monetary transaction is an inevitable component. A cashless environment ties well with SMART payment. A Supermarket for example, uses a normal counter with a cashier and a row of self-service terminals for cashless transactions such as VISA paywave. During peak hours, the terminals tend to be smarter and faster alternatives. Nonetheless, going cashless may not always equate to greater efficiency. A food market hawker for instance, within a day, he/she needs to deal with food suppliers at ad-hoc hours, cash payment is preferred in such a scenario.

Last but not least, cryptocurrency, which is gaining popularity in the era of SMART Payment. I noticed some companies adopted blockchain platform and issue their own virtual currencies that could be used to pay for their products/services. Such companies rely on blockchain to provide the security, non-repudiation for instance. It is key for these companies to get serious about cybersecurity beneath their underlying infrastructure system per se so as to better protect its data and servers.

Hence, for the government/citizenry keen to embark on the SMART journey, it is important to note that, when we talk about a SMART Nation, from whose perspectives are we talking about? Have we forgotten about the illiterates, the poor and the aged?

Alan Seow
Cyber Security Practitioner