KOCHI:The establishment of an Integrated Command, Control and Communication Centre (IC4) by the Cochin Smart Mission Ltd. (CSML) is a crucial step in realising the smart city vision for Kochi. However, centralising surveillance, utilities and other essential services can potentially do more harm than good.
In addition to controlling the distribution of utilities, channeling finance, monitoring traffic and coordinating between numerous corporations and departments, the IC4 will process the data on citizens from various sources to expedite the services they provide. It proposes a common platform of solutions for problems that vary widely in range.
Shashanker Das, a software engineer at Samsung said, “The level of autonomy that smart cities bring to the table with the Internet of Things (IoT) can save a lot of time and resources.” Footage from every traffic and surveillance camera in the city, records of transactions between citizens and the government are some critical information that this server would host. The technology behind it is vulnerable to cyber attacks. For instance, IoT devices can be remotely hacked and controlled by cyber attackers via Command & Control (CnC) Server, he added.
Kanishk Tagade, a researcher at a Nagpur-based cyber security company, HaltDos said, “A single, large-scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is all it takes to outsmart smart cities.” There have been dangerous precedents. Kanishk recalled the malware attacks on power grids and three distribution companies in Ukraine in 2015 that disrupted electricity supply to consumers. The same year, Cesar Cerrudo, an Argentine security researcher from IOActive Labs hacked traffic signals in Washington DC.
In the hands of terrorists, this control can cause accidents and block ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles.
Earlier this year, the US found malware in their critical infrastructure which was traced back to Russian cyber attackers. As the initiation of the project is right around the corner, Kochi is set to join the elite club with enhanced public features and facilities that make lives easier. What remains to be seen is if the Rs 100 crore capital that this project requires and the autonomous, uninterrupted operation it guarantees are worth the serious privacy and security risks.
Many have accused the government for the Aadhaar data leak which increased the risk of identity theft for anyone. Without encryption and transparency regarding how citizens’ data is secured and other cyber security measures are in place, the IC4 would put more sensitive data and control over utilities and emergency services in one convenient location. This would help any skilled attacker to misuse, disrupt the city and cause serious damage.