March 26, 2020 – Navigating Digital Services within SMART CITY with Cybersecurity in-mind

By Alan Seow, Cyber Security Practitioner

Smart City – No doubt when one hears about this, it should be about technology which connects every nook and corner and provides intelligent solutions to its citizens. One prominent example that can be easily associated with is digital services. A secured digital service, apart from improving citizenry overall digital experience in terms of reliability and security, most important of all, the trust relationship among digital users or adopters. The growing confidence in people using digital services will spur the advancement of smart city, easing their lives with all information away by one digital touch, therefore provides the impetus to transform a nation into a digital country or state.

Today, digital services come in many forms, we have online selling platform, eBay/Amazon, movie providers, Disney+/Netflix, music providers, Spotify, ticketing services, Eventbrite, online dating services, digital newspapers, e-books subscriptions, Mobile App downloads to Microsoft (MS) Teams/Skype meeting and many more. In the Covid-19 global pandemic, in order to limit or contain the virus spread, work from home (WFH) is a common term for organization where employees are encouraged to WFH. As such, MS Teams/Skype business related meetings and video conferences have become more paramount. I-robots are deployed in hospitals to assist doctors and nurses who are dealing with Covid-19 patients. Hence, that minimizes healthcare workers’ exposure to Covid-19.   

There is also a wide adoption of “algorithms driven” products that offer digital services. Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning will be a part of our daily lives. Such a progressive move may eventually result in the acceleration of robots being widely deployed which could mean the birth of new job roles or opportunities and old or existing jobs being replaced. For instance, physical security guards of private properties that do not require a high level of security (i.e. guards for a low-to-medium end Condominium) could well be replaced by robots. The robots can do the prowling and having the gate gantry to be automated. The gantries for vehicle entry/exit can be controlled through the use of an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system. Take for another example; dish collectors at food centers can also be replaced by robots as well. Robots have the distinct capability of 24/7 and can be programmed to follow orders without defiance. One key advantage is that it eliminates human guards from falling asleep due to fatigue or having them taking “unofficial time off”. The Operation Manager (OM) in-charge, instead of managing humans, he/she will now manage robots. The OM role could be redefined as Operation Security Manager (OSM). OSMs will have to be retrained with Information Technology (IT) system security skillset on top of their surveillance system security know how. The maintenance crew of companies providing robotic security/robotic services will need to be upskilled as well. These circumstances will increase the demand for Robotic Operator/Engineer, IT System Security Engineer, Secure Coder and Cyber Threat Analyst.

The marriage of physical and cyber space will thus become more apparent overtime. It would not just only be security but safety and security. The situation where robot becomes malfunctioned and start attacking people via unauthorized access control is very real.   

Digital service inevitably embraces digital automation. It would mean less to zero human intervention. Though automation brings about process efficiency. There are, however, the flip sides to note. For instance, a logistic supply chain being over reliance on digital automation where the automation process failed to present the desired outcome, long delays can be expected. This will result in a “painful experience” for customers expecting their goods to be delivered on time. Should digital automation being compromised, it could also be a platform for an efficient digital attack launch-pad.     

The scope and value of digital services is potentially boundless, limited more by the imagination and service providers’ ability to identify, evaluate, partner for, deliver and manage them in an efficient, seamless manner. While city services are increasingly being digitized, it is important that the digital strategy has a simplified governance structure where users will not be frustrated trying to figure out how to use multiple digital tools. As the world turns digital, the complexity of integrating and managing digital services is growing.

In this article, we talked about the “algorithms driven” product and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning. These mechanism coupled with deep learning may prove to be a game changer when they are being deployed at perimeter defense. It can be configured to look at the codes and determine whether it is a malware as compared to the type of malware detection where it relies on code execution. In this way, more can be further explored when one navigates digital services within smart city with cybersecurity in mind.