Smart Cities

Smart cities: The new use case for cyber ranges

Cities and local governments are actively investing in smart city solutions with the aim of saving resources, whether the focus is on time, money or ecological/environmental resources. On the face of it, change seems to be happening quickly within increasingly large urban areas, but the adoption of new technology actually requires a lot of prior research and a multitude of regulatory considerations.

The adoption of smart city mobility solutions, for example, requires a high standard of safety, security and trust in the system by end users. It is for this reason that the successful deployment of a diverse portfolio of smart city elements requires a very high level of knowledge of the cyber landscape and of the different threat levels across different applications.

IoT (Internet of Things) and other associated technologies being used to digitize our cities are facing a plethora of challenges in the current market, and sophisticated technological and human solutions are required to make fully fledged smart cities a reality.

In 2021, the global smart cities market was estimated to be worth $457 billion, and it is expected to grow further still, reaching an estimated $873.7 billion by 2026. Growth in urbanization, the need for efficient management and utilization of resources, and demands for fast and efficient transport (along with public safety concerns and increasing demand for a healthy environment with efficient energy consumption) are key factors driving investment into smart cities.

As our cities grow more complex and interconnected by IoT, urban smart technologies are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Threats to all connected devices are also growing and becoming more sophisticated as the surface area of their networks becomes larger, giving hackers more avenues to attack. Strong and robust public–private partnerships will be needed to both build and protect by design. It is not enough for a city to be wired, accessible and smart. Physical security and cyber security are imperatives and form part of an operational paradigm for the future smart cities that await us.

Cyber security risk management for mobility solutions

At CybExer, we are carrying out research into cyber security risk management solutions for smart cities by analysing the existing cyber security interdependencies found in the applications being applied. In October 2022, we received a research grant to support our work into exploring the resiliency of smart city mobility solutions using cyber range technology.

The €1.3 million project is called ‘Applied research on cyber security of smart city mobility solutions based on cyber range technology’, and we hope to be able to identify areas of weakness and rank the severity of various existing threats. Our end goal is to use these insights to help better protect our cities and civilian infrastructure against cyber disruptions. Ultimately, we need to better understand what we are working with so that future smart city networks are built from the ground up to be secure and well defended.

Our hope is that this research project can pave the way to the creation of a complex but extremely reliable portfolio of cyber security lab services for smart cities. These services would consist of the following elements:

• Cyber security testing for smart city devices, applications and software that can be executed before their integration into the live environment or IoT network
• A smart-city-specific cyber security offering, inclusive of tailored cyber security exercises built with cities in mind; these exercises will be perfectly designed for municipalities, with readily available integrated geolocational and network interconnection data to easily locate and monitor targets
• A software-as-a-service cyber security tool, developed using our cyber range technology, with client-specific content and strong data visualization that empowers IT teams with constant live awareness and management tools, creating real-time insights into the cyber security situation within any given smart city

The path to cyber resilient smart cities

With this milestone project, CybExer is paving the way for a dedicated partnership with cities, municipalities and developers of smart city solutions to increase cyber security resilience. The outcome will be cyber-range-based training, exercises, tools for situational awareness and testing of smart city solutions. Certainly there will be new special-purpose systems and scenarios added to Cyber Range as the result of this, so the future is bright for smart cities that can incorporate these.
By achieving a strong synergy between public and private entities, broad awareness of the cyber threats facing our digital cities and targeted investment schemes focused on creating both protection and effective response strategies, we can achieve previously unimaginable levels of innovation. The impact and benefits of running effective system testing and cyber defence exercises are yet to be fully understood, but tools such as cyber range technology are opening doors to everyday people living in urban areas that can count on their services to weather the storm of cyber uncertainty.