How Smart Cities will expand the remit of Critical National Infrastructure

December 4, 2020

The possibilities and capabilities of Smart Cities seem to be expanding daily. With the arrival of 5G infrastructures across metropolitan areas, Smart and IoT technologies are set to revolutionise transport, mobility, utilities (such as water, gas and electricity) as well as other key aspects of city life.

It is clear what the potential benefits of this increased connectivity are; optimised transport and traffic will improve air quality, for example, or increased use of Smart Meters for utilities will save resources and possibly help consumers save money. However, as Smart City capabilities expand, so do the digital risk inherent to connected technologies.

As a result, many of these systems and capabilities may become critical to metropolitan functioning. For example, Smart technology that facilitates transportation through connected and autonomous vehicles will become key to a city. In a sector such as this, the main concern not only becomes the security of the technology, but the safety of the ridership. Therefore, some of this Smart City technology will become Critical National Infrastructure.

There are already guidelines and regulations for Critical National Infrastructure operators, such as the EU’s Networks & Information Systems (NIS) Directive, which has also been passed into UK law in 2018. According to the NCSC, these guidelines are meant for organisations that perform a ‘specified essential function,’ such as energy and water operators, or even telecommunications providers. This remit will likely have to be expanded as Smart technology advances, covering connected and autonomous vehicles such as Smart Transportations or commercial drones. Hijacks of these assets won’t just be a security concern, but could potentially threaten the safety of the metropolis.

The NCSC has provided a Cyber Assessment Framework to this end, guiding key organisations to suitable cyber resilience levels. Organisations that are not considered Critical National Infrastructure operators yet should begin looking at this framework and building in these heightened security principles from inception.

Ultimately, city life is changing faster than ever before. Keeping cities secure will ensure that we receive the benefits of these new technologies.

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