Twenty years ago, government agencies began to leverage the Internet to share information with their constituents more easily, and over time developed digital platforms to deliver services, whether the ability to pay taxes or traffic tickets online, and to generally make interactions more convenient and cost-effective.
Ten years ago, many of these same local, state and federal agencies began exploring connected or “smart” cities, envisioning a combination of smart infrastructure, systems, and services, and today, as we embark on the third decade of the 21st century, there are thousands of active projects in the smart city and smart community domain.
Elected officials and government employees recognize advances in networking and information technology can dramatically increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve quality of life for their citizens.
They are transforming the way people live, work and play by embedding new digital technologies into their infrastructure, systems, and services to enhance existing or develop new capabilities and opportunities including smart grids, intelligent transportation systems, public safety, remote healthcare and more.
While these innovations, which often pay for themselves in a matter of a few months or years, are delivering tremendous public benefits, they also introduce new challenges, including the realm of cybersecurity and an ever-expanding attack surface. As government agencies come to rely on sensor-generated data to run smart city solutions and realize they are responsible for ensuring that every endpoint on their network is registered, managed and secured, they are increasingly exploring networking technologies including SD-WAN.
The trending migration to cities is putting pressure on urban planners, managers and political policy makers to optimize the management of their communities, and with the rapid advancement of connected devices, software systems and information communications technologies which are becoming more pervasive and affordable, we’re seeing the instrumentation of everything from parking, power and water meters to streetlights which have become multipurpose assets (with smart LED lighting reducing the cost of electricity while also creating a “perch” for everything from cameras and people counters to traffic control solutions and even gunshot detectors) .
Some cities start with just a project or two to test the waters, while others have actively pursue smart city programs with a comprehensive design across government agency departments and infrastructure.
Over the last two decades, Smart City applications have mainly been “layered in” and in many cases, the ability to govern, manage and secure so many connected systems became an afterthought. With cyberattacks on government agencies increasing in frequency, and concerns about adversaries “hacking in” to traffic control systems, microgrids and more, there is a heightened interest in making Smart Governments and Smart Cities secure.
The risk of a security failure within a Smart City environment could have far reaching consequences, as the more connected single systems become with each other, the more data is collected from disparate systems and stored and used centrally, the more damage hackers can do.
When any device on a Smart City network is left unsecured, adversaries can get into the network and pivot into other systems, to steal data or to hijack systems, seeking ransom or simply creating chaos.
Imagine a city-wide disruption, when streetlights go dark, traffic signals stop working, emergency mobile communications are blocked.
Imagine data being compromised: as more local governments provide online and ecommerce conveniences, they store personal information, payment data and more, and if a breach occurs entire communities can be impacted.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a physical sciences laboratory, and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce regularly publishes a Cybersecurity Framework to help guide government agencies when it comes to managing cybersecurity-related risks, and their reports increasingly include smart city and IoT recommendations. Gartner projects that by 2020, 50% of private U.S. businesses, critical infrastructure operators and countries around the globe will use the NIST’s framework as they develop and deploy technology, including smart cities, smart utilities and IoT.
The NIST and other standards groups are providing guidance to smart city decision makers in planning for the best, most secure Smart City implementations as part of their Smart Government vision. Key to successful projects is the network itself. Selecting a network with security “built in” and one that is programmable to support small projects today, and much larger projects in the future can mitigate risk immediately, and grow as more devices, sensors and systems are connected across longer-term digital transformation.
Inevitably, all municipalities will implement smart city technology to better manage resources and improve the lives of the resident, but the choices government leaders and employees make today will determine their success.
While SD-WAN is bringing greater capabilities to Smart Government and Smart City initiatives, leveraging the most resilient public network in the world (the Internet), Dispersive has created, working with government agencies for years, software-defined networking technology and services a generation ahead of traditional SD-WAN approaches.
With Dispersive’s Virtual Network technology, data Gets from Point A to Point B Faster (generally 2-10 times faster than traditional SD WAN and VPN solutions). All traffic is divided into separate, independent packet streams that are each sent simultaneously across different micro-segmented, individually encrypted paths across the internet from authenticated sources to destinations. If congestion or an attack anomaly occurs, the encrypted data packet rolls to a new unimpeded path to optimize connectivity and avoid the attack or impairment. The benefits of Dispersive technology extend to the device level, so smart city sensors, cameras, employees and citizens can all be protected.
Dispersive also makes it possible to replace costly MPLS networking with Internet (public or DIA) and broadband connections that extend to any IP connected device and distributes traffic across dynamically changing pathways to save significant operational expense and avoid DoS, DDoS, and Man-in-the-middle attacks. Dispersive works with Managed Service Providers and other authorized resellers to bring more benefits to government agencies, making smart and secure government, cities and communities possible.