Gulf smart cities face cy­ber threat

The Miracle - - Middle East -

GREG WILCOX :LONDON: Gulf govern­ments have been warned to take cy­ber se­cu­rity se­ri­ously or risk their smart cities suc­cumb­ing to fu­ture threats and data leaks. The Gulf is, to some ex­tent, play­ing catchup with the rest of the world when it comes to in­tro­duc­ing smart tech­nol­ogy, and us­ing In­ter­net-driven de­vices and knowhow to cre­ate cleaner, smarter, more ef­fi­cient en­vi­ron­ments. Wael Ab­del Samad, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at the Rochester In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Dubai, said this is an ad­van­tage. “Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Riyadh are all in a tran­si­tional phase when it comes to in­cor­po­rat­ing smart tech­nolo­gies within their frame­works,” Samad told Arab News. “They haven’t achieved what Copen­hagen, Barcelona or Seoul have achieved. But they’re in the process of get­ting there. “The cities in the Gulf are fairly new so in a way eas­ier to in­tro­duce tech­nolo­gies and it’s eas­ier to retro­fit some of the ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies as op­posed to in­tro­duc­ing a whole new trans­porta­tion sys­tem in a city like London. “The GCC has that ad­van­tage.” But while re­gional cap­i­tals have a sim­pler task in in­tro­duc­ing smart tech­nolo­gies, they have been warned that only by un­der­stand­ing the se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions of that now can they avoid prob­lems later. Vince War­ring­ton has ad­vised govern­ments and large multi­na­tion­als about cy­ber se­cu­rity and says that while a fu­ture of self-driv­ing cars and a re­duced car­bon foot­print is some­thing to get ex­cited about, one with power fail­ures and leaked data is not. “Govern­ments need to be aware of the dan­gers at the start of im­ple­ment­ing smart tech- nol­ogy — some­times se­cu­rity comes as an af­ter­thought,” said War­ring­ton, the di­rec­tor of cy­ber se­cu­rity con­sul­tancy Pro­tec­tive In­tel­li­gence. “Se­cu­rity is seen as bor­ing and not adding … value. But everyone needs to be more aware of the cy­ber threat and govern­ments need to in­tro­duce reg­u­la­tion.” Se­cu­rity fail­ures in smart cities could range from data leaks, such as the one that af­fected Bri­tain’s Na­tional Health Ser­vice earlier this year, to self-driv­ing cars crash­ing in the event of their op­er­at­ing sys­tems be­ing hacked. For War­ring­ton, the prob­lem is one of let­ting tech­nol­ogy run ahead of both pol­icy and prac­ti­cal­ity. “In the avi­a­tion in­dus­try, there used to be what was known as the tomb­stone prin­ci­ple, where the in­dus­try would only think about how to make fly­ing safer once there had been a crash. Now they are ob­vi­ously far more proac­tive, and an­tic­i­pate ev­ery­thing that could go wrong be­fore it does. “In smart cities, I think there is still that tomb­stone mind­set. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers need to be sen­si­ble and right at the start think about po­ten­tial threats not after they oc­cur. That is a con­cern.” That view is echoed by Samad, who this sum­mer di­rected a work­shop on the fu­ture of Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil (GCC) smart cities at Cam­bridge Univer­sity. “When it comes to tech­nol­ogy you have to take a risk and at some point im­ple­ment it,” he said. “Tech­nol­ogy is ahead of pol­icy. For ex­am­ple, the tech­nol­ogy is out there. When it comes to au­ton­o­mous cars Tesla has al­ready done it. But do cities have proper trans­porta­tion poli­cies and laws in that re­gard? The an­swer is no. “That is al­ways go­ing to be the case. Tech­nol­ogy will present some­thing and then poli­cies will have to catch up and gov­ern­ment will have to catch up too.” Samad also warned govern­ments to take stock and de­cide what they want to get out of smart tech­nol­ogy. “Ev­ery city is dif­fer­ent. For ex­am­ple, Dubai has its own roadmap to ar­rive at what their ver­sion of a smart city is, which is dif­fer­ent to Riyadh. Cities are dif­fer­ent and have their own tar­gets,” Samad said.

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