Smart Cities: How Data and Visibility are Key

ISACA recently conducted a smart cities research survey in which it asked approximately 2,000 security and risk professionals questions focused on smart cities and their management, risks, and future technology initiatives. As a recovering city CISO, I can tell you that many of the survey questions were typical ones asked about smart cities. One question that caught my eye regarded what technologies were believed to be essential for the “security/resilience preparedness” of smart municipalities.

This question was of interest to me because city environments are collections of disparate systems. I used to joke that cities were packrats: they keep technologies beyond their typical lifespans due to the scarcity of resources needed to replace them. This mixture of legacy and up-to-date solutions can lead to environments with challenging levels of risk. As the CISO of a leading global smart city, I found one of my best assets for managing organizational risks was visibility into the municipality’s operations, data flows and network infrastructure.

I say this in part because, of the five answers available for the survey question on resiliency, “Advance Data Analytics” was the most selected answer in terms of what professionals believed smart cities need to perfect the preparedness of their security efforts. I am sure this is a shock to some. Many would have thought new tech or cutting-edge science would be what smart cities need. In actuality, the use of data analytics to manage scarce resources and highlight anomalous behavior is a better value because it provides visibility.

Data analytics and the technology platforms that incorporate it can be leveraged to orchestrate incident response teams’ reactions to business continuity events and to target efforts for isolating and remediating incidents. These platforms provide substantial visibility, and can give municipal security programs context surrounding risk exposure to their organization, as well as assist in the selection of controls and processes used to remediate threats.

Smart city CISOs and security teams face business operations, enterprise infrastructures and unique datasets related to the use of new smart sensor technologies. These challenges can be managed, I believe, with the use of advanced data analytics platforms providing visibility into how sensitive data, critical networks and citizen-facing operations are stored and used in a safe manner that protects the assets entrusted to them by their neighbors.