Imminent threats & future policing in smart cities

By Masud Khabeki


Changing lives of citizens in smart cities have made them vulnerable to criminal
activities than ever. As smart citizens are interconnected via smart phones and
gadgets. Smart security devices and smart appliances are being used in many cities.
Homes, motorways, cars, public venues and other social systems are now on the path
to full connectivity, known as the “Internet of Things (IoT).” Intelligent
transportation is materialized into reality, public and private entities are poised to
convert into digitalized world, people would access a web of interconnected data from
GPS location to weather and traffic updates and to all civic facilities. Integrated
systems will aid public safety, emergency responders and disaster recovery. In turn,
Smart cities are obviously have become vulnerable to many dangers due to their
interconnected nature. Attacks can be made to any point of the infrastructure and
network. In addition to the primary network, the city data centers catering to the
various domains would also be open for exploitation in the event of a security attack.
Numerous cyber-attacks in the cyber domain have been launched in recent years
against the computing infrastructure of various governments. These have been aimed
at undermining the functioning of information systems, theft of information, or denial
of service.
Traditionally, risks have been associated with the physical damage caused by the
attack. However, with emergence of integrated IT environment, any attack on smart
city or citizens of smart city, the attack would not be just of a physical nature. A
modern city anywhere in the world and even in Pakistan embodies people, knowledge,
resources, finances, democratic and political aspects, and cultural values. These
constituent elements can be classified as asset groups or capital, including intellectual,
social, technical, environmental, cultural, leisure and financial capital. Attack can be
made on any constituent of the city and can impact socially, economically and
emotionally in addition to physical damage.
Furthermore, risks may include illegal access to information, and attacks causing
physical disruptions in service availability in our future cities. As digital citizens
become increasingly connected with data available about their location and activities,
privacy seems to disappear. Privacy protecting systems that gather data and trigger
emergency responses when needed are technological challenges that go hand-in- hand
with the continuous security concerns. Therefore, the smart citizen today is under
threat of risk and attack at four levels, one Physical, second Economical, third
Cultural and fourth Emotional. For the smart city, the technical target and the related
consequence, such as injury to property, personality, life and limb, or emotional

damage, must be viewed jointly and, in turn, mapped to the nature of the motivated
offender. While, in the context of transportation systems, motivated offenders may
include juveniles, thieves, vandals, stalkers and domestic abuse perpetrators. The
motivations range from boredom to malice to profit to insanity. Instrumented
transportation systems offer suitable targets for a motivated offender. This privacy
violation would prove itself a major security risk in near future. For example, once any
motivated offender have a profile and location on the victim/target at all times, they
know when that victim/target would be most vulnerable to a physical attack. The
offenders could inflict catastrophic failures in the system because highly connected
systems can suddenly fail. The systems would remain critically under pressure because
the technology has created many complex convergence points in operations that
create a new central point of weakness or a vulnerable target for malevolent action
against the company’s or government’s strategic operations. For example, new threats
have emerged to systems controls in smart grid, smart water supply/distribution or
smart transportation, etc. The kind of situation have widened the threat spectrum
beyond data protection and software failures and definitely poised to create new
challenges for future cop, who are assigned to form crime prevention strategies in the
constantly changing new environment.
Furthermore, locational data can be a key security concern. Many people set the GPS
originating address from their homes. Access to this data reveals that home locations.
If the automobile is away from home, that home may be a better target for burglary –
a case of economic loss to the citizen. Similarly, social media can be used as an
amplification platform for attacks. For instance, attackers can increase the impact of
an attack by causing panic in a population. If just one simple attack is real, then a
bigger attack can be promoted. Cultural heritage is another fundamental aspect of our
identity as a nation and must be transferred to the next generations in the best
possible condition. Cities and the law enforcement agencies need to make efforts to
develop innovative conservation strategies and integration of the most advanced
technologies to allow their safe, sustainable and effective use in the context of the
smart management of the city. This sophisticated transformation needs a careful
approach not only once but a smart policing mechanism would be a certain
requirement to maintain a smooth preventive operation.
The increasing trend of urbanization in Pakistan like any other country of
underdeveloped economies is leading to increased vulnerability of cities including
terrorist attacks, cyber-crime, social unrest and heightened impact of natural disasters.
These would be some of the safety and security issues that need to be addressed in
future urban areas better known as urban economies. Growing skyscrapers, increased
use of public transportation, multi-tenant buildings, and thousands of people flocking
together for sports or cultural events mean that large numbers of people are packed in

smaller areas in a smart city. Such densely packed areas are prone to become soft
targets for attacks. The concept of urban security responsible for protecting citizens
and infrastructure such as airports, data centers, roads and power grids have gained
vital significance in recent years. The future cops and their crime prevention strategies
have to deal with various aspects of policing that would be sustainable and holistic.
Future policing has to live with a knowledge of certainty that there would be a huge
and unknown attack surface exist in smart cities. With so much complexity and
interdependency, it is difficult to know what and how everything would be exposed to
any criminal activity. Therefore, simple problems could lead to a huge impact due to
interdependency and chain reactions. The police need to evolve continuously and
have to learn from each attack on the smart city. The repository of information for
police department should be enriched with various incidences and should be
progressive in nature. This approach desires a huge overhaul in the existing policing
trends and a concentrated effort to improve the training facilities at National Police
Academy and Police Colleges.
Furthermore, in a smart city, the police have to be sensitive to the society’s needs and
strict toward the procedures and rules made for a peaceful society to the extent of
zero tolerance. Future policing trends have to understand the citizen perspective and
partner with social organizations to provide a safer environment. This attitude is not
possible without rigorous and continuous training within the all ranks of police.
Partnership with society is a dream fulfilled through community policing model.
Partnership with society can be in various forms–rotary clubs, mothers against one-
wheeling and reckless driving, schools for inculcating traffic sense in children,
residents to keep an eye on child kidnapping and social disorder, businesses to help
increase vigilance in market areas, etc. Partnering with society would not only improve
the public image of police but would also provide eyes and ears to the police
department to better protect the life of all citizens regardless of age, education, social
class etc.
Masud Khabeki is adjunct faculty, Criminology at Arid Agriculture
University, Rawalpindi