DHS: The Future of Smart Cities: Cyber-Physical Infrastructure Risk

The-Future-of-Smart-Cities-Cyber-Physical-Infrastructure-RiskThe US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis (DHS/OCIA) produced a report on Smart Cities infrastructure “The Future of Smart Cities – Cyber-Physical Infrastructure Risk

The report addresses how the adoption of and increased reliance on smart technologies may create or increase risks for Smart Cities. It focuses on the Transportation Systems Sector, the Electricity Subsector within the Energy Sector, and the Water and Wastewater Systems Sector.

From the Executive Summary:

The goal of these new cities is to create a higher quality of life, a more mobile life and an overall increased efficient use of available resources. Some examples of Smart-City technologies are interconnected power grids reducing power waste, smarter transportation resulting in increased traffic management, and smarter infrastructures that reduce hazards and increase efficiency.

This interconnectedness of devices introduces cyber-physical technologies that connect cyber systems to physical systems, thereby removing the barrier between the cyber and physical worlds. Some cyber-physical systems are integrated at the design stage unlike more traditional legacy systems; a full-fledged cyber-physical system is typically designed as a network of interacting elements with physical input and output instead of as standalone devices. Smart City, in everyday use, is inclusive of terms such as ‘digital city’ or ‘connected cities’. Cyber-physical innovations feature prominently in Smart Cities, particularly as cyber-physical technologies are increasingly added to existing infrastructure and built into newly constructed infrastructure. Removing the cyber-physical barriers in an urban environment presents a host of opportunities for increased efficiencies and greater convenience, but the greater connectivity also expands the potential attack surface for malicious actors. In addition to physical incidents creating physical consequences, exploited cyber vulnerabilities can result in physical consequences, as well.


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Marin Ivezic is a Cybersecurity & Privacy Partner in PwC Canada focused on risks of emerging technologies.