Oman Observer

Cyber security, real time communication

It is the time of connectivity and sharing from cars to smart homes via mobile phones. While speed is sought after, safety and security are at different levels than ever before. From being concerned of who is going through personal data or Internet of Things, IoT, would have many shifts not just on lifestyle but how society operates.
Cyber security is essential to ensure safety and continuity in interconnected Smart City IoT systems. At the smart cities and industry summit, the discussion centred on why cyber security is so often not part of the initial conversation.
Would some societies be left behind? ‘Not really,’ said Christopher Autry, CEO of IOTHIC from UK who is in Oman to deliver presentation on why Smart Cities require modern cybersecurity protocols at Comex 2018. ‘Many countries in Africa just skipped the process of land line phones and arrived straight at mobile phone technology.’
There are challenges as cities move on to become smart and intelligent. Lack of standardisations is one of the major challenges.
“In order to be a smart city, everything needs to speak to everything else. Right now that proves to be difficult for many reasons, whether it is different wireless protocols, security protocols, or programming languages.
“In a smart city environment, things need to happen in real time, and unfortunately the world of computing as we know has been developed for client server models which means everything goes to a centarlised place and comes back. But that is not how smart cities need to be because everything has to be connected with everything else on real time and that has big security implications among other things,” explains Autry.
The real blocks according to him are lack of skill set in planning and lack of communications between different entities that are involved in planning. Most of the work is done in silos, Autry points out, “In order for cities to achieve smart city status, there need to be cross communication not only among parties who are building but the things themselves, then comes the issue” who controls what? Who is handling security and who is responsible?
Smart city goes beyond smart homes and smart offices. Right now the focus is also on automotive industry and transportation sector in general. Experts are trying to find answers and solutions as cars need to talk to road sensors and at the same time what happens when things on the road cannot talk to each other.
So another challenge is the compliance issues.
“If Internet of Things is the base, automation is a layer above. Then a smart city is way above all of that. Even at the IoT level there is security challenge. The early adaptors will tend to face most of the challenges. Once it is all smoothened out, it will be easier for others to adapt,” he added.
But the ultimate challenge would be security. Energy rigs and water supplies get hacked all the time, noted the security expert. “It is basically because they are all centralised systems. One level has control of everything else, but the lower level needs to be secured as well but is not.”
In an interview, an ethical hacker said, “In 2018, I would not hack your home computer but I would hack your energy grid.”
“The reason he said that was because it is dead easy,” said Autry.
These are the issues that need to be solved. Unfortunately many times security is an afterthought because people are interested in the upfront functionality. Security is not a problem until it is a problem. Would the rest of the system follow as the world continues its quest to be more intelligent?

Lakshmi Kothaneth