A secure cloud architecture for smart cities

New guidelines offer a data template for cities to apply across sectors and initiatives to increase cyber-physical security and compliance and minimize risk.

A blueprint released July 10 aims to help communities of all sizes and technical capabilities build smart cities based on a secure hybrid cloud architecture that supports confidentiality, access control, least privileges and protection of personally identifiable information (PII).  The architecture also serves as a cloud-based backup when things go awry.

“You know about the Baltimore ransomware attacks, you know about the Atlanta one, you know about the two Florida cities that just paid off in bitcoin their ransomware attackers,” said Lee McKnight, a professor at Syracuse University who oversees the Smart City and Community Challenge cloud privacy security rights inclusive architecture (SC3-cpSriA) action cluster’s work on secure cloud architecture. “All that is a result of essentially a combination of legacy systems from cities with limited budgets. The cities can’t afford the IT staff or numbers of a Google or an IBM or Amazon or Microsoft for securing cloud services," he said. "They’re always going to be more vulnerable because of their limited expertise and awareness.”

That doesn't have to be the case, he added. A secure cloud architecture can automate processes to increase security and compliance and minimize risk. “It minimizes the risk and treats all those legacy systems as honeypots,” McKnight said. “You don’t care if they’re attacked because you’ve got everything backed up to the cloud. Nothing worse than a day’s loss of data can ever happen because we’ve designed this properly.”

The idea was to build a framework for cloud services that facilitates city officials’ decisions about exactly what data and systems to protect and how, and how to restore data if a vulnerable system is attacked.  

The architecture conforms to standards such as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC) Cybersecurity and Privacy Advisory Committee guidelines, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, International Organization for Standardization standards and PCI.

The framework uses a three-tiered data and risk classification scheme: red for sensitive data such as PII, which is the most controlled and restricted; yellow for data that can be shared with controls and monitoring; and green for data that can be shared openly. The workflows applied to the data depend on their classification.

Next, officials assign a likelihood, impact and overall rating to each risk and put in place controls -- automated where possible -- to mitigate those risks.

In terms of privacy, officials can decide, based on data type, what legal and regulatory requirements exist around each, what security is required and how the collection or storage of the data could affect a resident’s privacy or security.

"Everybody needs to be thinking about privacy, security and data issues,” McKnight said.“I think this is something everybody can understand."

The first test of the architecture was the team’s application of it to a network of city-owned smart streetlights.  Syracuse, N.Y., is installing a network of LED streetlights that is expected to save the city millions each year from interconnected smart grid data access, reduced greenhouse emissions and increased safety.  It is also considering catch-basin monitoring and water metering projects as well as others involving  the ethics of artificial intelligence, facial recognition and machine learning.

The hypothesis is that a secure cloud architecture can facilitate smart cities’ use of such emerging technologies while minimizing risk to privacy and security, according to the blueprint. Other benefits of using a secure cloud infrastructure include reduced city operating costs, greater data transparency and product innovation, the report adds. The results in Syracuse will inform further development of the secure cloud architecture.

The blueprint is designed for “engineers, security experts, and IT analysts as well as finance and procurement specialists, marketing, innovation and development specialists, and educators and students of all ages and interests."  They aim to help smart city stakeholders "begin to speak the same language, and develop common methods and models for community education, self-protection, risk mitigation and … community or region-wide cloud privacy security and rights-inclusive architecture,” the report states.

After the city and other early users offer feedback from their early attempts to apply the framework to several smart city projects, the architecture can then be built into edgeware apps, decision tools and cloud training with support from vendors, such as those participating in the action cluster. That group includes Dell Technologies, IBM Red Hat and Microsoft. 

The team is presenting and demonstrating the secure cloud architecture this week at the GCTC SC3 Expo, hosted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Homeland Security.

“If we are properly architecting the services and applications with this default backup into the cloud built in, then you should also be cutting down many of the risk factors and, in particular, the way one infected account can take down a whole enterprise,” McKnight said. “That’s bad architecture. That shouldn’t be possible. That can be fixed at this architectural level.”

NEXT STORY: Data-driven space exploration

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.