With the world going digital in every sphere of life, it is but natural that digital security be of prime concern especially in cities around the world. This is because the controlling hub of every country lies in its cities and any hacking by unscrupulous elements into the cyber network can have disastrous consequences. With populations in most countries gravitating towards cities where the action is and thus greater opportunities in standards of pay, the cities are bursting at the seams today with consequential susceptibility to crimes of all hues, especially the digital types. There were 31megacitioes in the world in 2016, this figure is expected to rise to 41 by 2030, thereby emphasising the gravity of the situation and need for enhanced digital security laws and systems.
Size and population count does matter in crime as recent events have proved. Cities generate a lot of economic activity but along with that, huge growth in infrastructure too has to be in the pipeline if the spread of slums has to be avoided. Growing inequalities and disparities in living conditions have led to manmade risks and pockets of wealth and influence are increasingly coming under attack from terrorist activities. London riots in 2011 and events in Madrid, Paris and Barcelona bear this out.
Alongside this trend, another important drift has taken over the world’s cities and that is the digital revolution and the urge to become a “smart city”. What does this actually mean for the cities? It brings unlimited benefits that even in the not-so-distant past were unheard of. As an offshoot of the Internet of Things sensors and monitoring devices collect data of various physical objects and installations and transmit them seamlessly for efficient management of infrastructure facilities and services. Smart metres are optimising electricity consumption, lowering costs and saving expenses on energy generation. Law enforcement agencies are using data analytics and artificial intelligence to tackle urban crime. On the face of it, nothing could be better for cities than being in a digital environment in every aspect.
Now for the other side of the picture, smart technologies lead to vulnerabilities in digital space unless huge commensurate investments are made in cyber security. This becomes difficult for cities with already stretched financial capabilities. But consider the consequences of not putting adequate stress on preventing cyber crimes. Hackers can shut down the electricity supply of an entire city because the power grids are operated through artificial intelligence and advanced use of digital technologies. This would lead to hospitals being unable to provide services or large scale riots in the darkness. Installations made by a home security alarm company in Melbourne or any other city like Sydney, or New York or Frankfurt for example would cease to function, resulting in break-ins and robberies. In short there would be chaos all around. For more information of how alarm systems function and how they can get affected due to an outage, visit https://www.onetecsecurity.com.au/.
The good news is that cities around the world have today woken up to the digital threats with cities in Asia and North America taking the lead in implementing security measures. There are three cities in Asia in the top 10 – Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong – followed by six in North America – Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas. Hong Kong in particular has taken very effective steps in this regard. The country has established the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau that carries out in-depth research and action on digital forensics and other technology crime prevention activities.
In Japan, authorities have already initiated stringent measures to safeguard critical infrastructure from cyber attacks keeping the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympics in mind. Los Angeles this August has started a public-private initiative and established the first city based cyber lab in the USA. It will help residents and businesses in the city to secure their networks and devices and also disseminate any information on cyber attacks.
The present line of thought therefore points to rise in digitalisation of cities as well as making provisions for fail-safe security measures simultaneously.