Wed. Dec 11th, 2019

The risk of cyberattacks rises as high-tech smart cities become the norm, and experts say ‘your weakest link is your people’

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The risk of cyberattacks rises as high-tech smart cities become the norm, and experts say ‘your weakest link is your people’

  • As cities become increasingly connected, governments must prepare for a rising risk of cyberattacks, according to three smart city experts from the public and private sector.
  • When it comes to cybersecurity, “your weakest link is your people,” according to Tony Encinas, former Chief Information Officer for the state of Pennsylvania.
  • Encinas spoke as part of Business Insider’s IGNITION: Smart Cities panel in Washington, DC Tuesday morning.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

This summer, hackers gave a Florida city two choices: it could pay a $600,000 ransom, or the hackers would wipe the government servers they had taken control of, sending the city into disarray. The city government ultimately handed over the cash

With the advent of high-tech, internet-reliant “smart cities,” ransomware attacks against local governments are likely to become even more lucrative for hackers — and according to experts, those hacks pose one of the largest existential threat to the future of smart cities.

Smart cities are becoming increasingly common. Enabled by advances in broadband internet, public and private sector players are working together to increase the number of “smart cities,” or urban centers with high-tech, internet-connected infrastructure.

Three public and private sector leaders discussed the risks facing smart cities in a panel discussion at Business Insider’s IGNITION event in Washington, DC Tuesday morning. 

“The issue of cybersecurity is an important one and I think it’s central to whether a city can succeed or not,” said panelist Sol Salinas, who is managing director of Accenture Digital and global lead for Accenture Smart Cities.

According to ViON vice president Tony Encinias, who formerly served as the chief information officer for the state of Pennsylvania, a city’s vulnerability to cyberattacks depends on the security practices of its staff.

“From a cybersecurity angle, your weakest link is your people,” Encinias said, emphasizing the importance of educating staff about password security and data protection. “You need to adequately train your people.”

Smart cities aiming to protect against cyberattacks will face another challenge, according to the panelists: money. Cybersecurity experts are in high demand, and municipalities rarely have the resources to pay salaries that are competitive with massive corporations, according to Encinias.

Panelist Kevin Garlan, North America innovation head for Citi, argued that smart cities should aim to draw funding from both public funds and private sector partnerships. A first step, according to Garlan, would be convincing private companies that investing in cities’ tech infrastructure is worth it.

“These are long term bets that are going to have long term payoffs,” Garlan said. “We need to think beyond traditional ways of raising money as a city.”

Watch the full IGNITION: Smart Cities panel below.

 

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