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Are our smart cities cyber secure?

Twitter: @Waldhuber

Over the holidays, I couldn’t resist temptation and indulged in re-runs of my favorite high-octane action franchise Live Free or Die Hard. McClane, played by Bruce Willis, singlehandedly prevents an attack by cyber terrorists, who hack into government, financial and municipal computers across the United States with the goal to start a “fire sale” of financial assets. The movie is a fiction. Or is it? Can malicious hackers devastate our smart cities and economy? Unfortunately, these concerns are based on today’s reality.

Nokia #SmartCities

Already a few years ago, security specialists demonstrated that it was pretty easy to hack into traffic control systems used all over the world, potentially causing dangerous traffic jams. Today our connected cars are complex computers on wheels that need proper protection. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles issued a safety recall for 1.4 million US cars several months ago, after hackers demonstrated that they could remotely take control of the vehicle.  A Heavy Reading study showed that in 2013, 60% of global telecom operators suffered severely from malicious attacks and the actual cost to global economy exceeded $400 billion.  The trend continues to escalate, with mobile malware doubling every six months. Barely a week goes by without another story of a major information and communications system being compromised and data stolen.

Today, wireless broadband networks are a metropolitan nervous system connecting our cars, homes, energy grids, government and healthcare providers to the cloud. They are our cities’ most critical infrastructure. As these networks grow more complex, become more interconnected and handle more information, their exposure to vulnerabilities, whether malicious or due to human error, increases. This can have a profound impact on the daily lives of citizens, who are now urging their city administrators and carrier providers to do more to secure their systems and personal data from cyber attacks.


Carriers are giving the topic of security an increasingly high priority, especially now, with rapid development in the Internet of Things (IoT), ongoing network virtualization and moving network management and data to the cloud. While cloud security allows faster response times to incidents and breaches, new smart city and IoT applications require expanding security to more levels, from IoT chips to networks to the applications on our smartphones. Critical city networks require service continuity and integrity, and need to be designed from inception, with cyber security, reliability and resilience as their cornerstones. This challenge can be tackled only through extensive industry collaboration and joint expertise of municipalities, network operators, device manufacturers and developers.

As one of the leading network equipment manufacturers, Nokia is dedicated to outsmarting malware and other critical threats. Our efforts in protecting public welfare include a complete security solution portfolio, a worldwide team of service and security experts, as well as an end-to-end testing center for real mobile broadband environments. Our network engineers designed a multi-layer reference architecture for security of virtualized and hybrid environments, with particular emphasis on the management and orchestration. Carriers and city CIOs can see live demos of Nokia security solutions during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 22-25, 2016. 

Our telco customers and city administrators share our vision that best-in-class network protection can be achieved through a solid foundation of secure network elements. To minimize security risk to sensitive data, Nokia’s security approach spans holistically from the network to the endpoint devices and from the cloud to the network edge. Our secure ecosystem of devices and IoT modules from qualified partners has been tested and certified to operate on a wireless network. All systems in a smart city’s wireless broadband scenario should have these security elements built in – from radio access to core network to connected sensors and devices.

As with any technology, there's the potential for misuse. Our smart cities need to be prepared to protect safety of information and wellbeing for citizens and its businesses alike, and the time to prepare is now. As long as the right safeguards are put in place, our smart cities can be cyber secure and bring great economic, environmental and health benefits to its residents and visitors.

Start 2016 with a good safe read, our latest security whitepapers: “Building secure telco clouds

LTE Radio Transport Security Vulnerabilities, Threats and Control” prepared together with our partner Check Point.

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #networksperform #IoT #telcosecurity  #SmartCities #Security #Cybersecurity.

Elena Waldhuber

About Elena Waldhuber

Elena Waldhuber heads Customer Marketing for Verizon at Nokia Networks. A consummate globetrotter, Elena has lived in many great cities of the world – Vienna, Moscow, London, Brussels, Singapore. She now resides in New Jersey and enjoys weekends in New York, observing the city transforming itself into one of the smartest cities in the world.

Tweet me @Waldhuber.

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