This month, the White House released its new cybersecurity strategy. It gives government agencies more ways to fight hackers and cyber criminals. But US cities remain vulnerable -- as they race towards innovation. Joce Sterman found out -- when it comes to security -- experts say our smart cities...have to 'get smart.'
Miami is nicknamed the “Magic City” .. because of how quickly its population exploded in its first 100 years. Now, the city is targeting growth - in a more futuristic sense.
Mayor Francis Suarez is amping up plans to make Miami a leading ‘smart city.’
Joce: You look out at this skyline and you think the future of Miami is technology based.
Mayor Suarez: It is, it has to be...and it will be.
By some estimates, the potential market for smart cities could be more than 1 trillion dollars by 2020. It’s a race for new technology...fast. That means new-age, digital systems controlling our street lights, water systems, garbage removal, security -- even our government.
Mayor Suarez: Our city government should not be a building, it should be a virtual platform. I'm constantly looking for ideas from the private sector community to come to the city and tell us, hey, this is what you should be doing.
Cesar Cerrudo: I started to see a lot of new technologies being deployed on cities. The vendors want to have something out to the market very fast and they don't pay attention to the security side of things.
Global cybersecurity expert Cesar Cerrudo says cities should pump the brakes on bells and whistles. Three years ago, he sounded alarms in a nearly 20-page report about emerging threats. Today, he says very little has changed.
Cesar Cerrudo: The technology is not protected. Then anyone can hack it and we'd suffer the consequences and those consequences could be something trivial, but it could be something really awful.
At Miami Police headquarters...80 cameras surveil the city...sending real-time images to a high-tech control center...along with shot-spotter technology -- that can detect gunfire in real time. The concern with smart technology...is keeping that security measure...secure.
Mayor Suarez: To think about an example where somebody breaks in and shuts all our cameras down or shuts down our shot-spotter. I mean that is as violent and as a dramatic and incident that we can have in the city. So if that were to happen, we would be blind from that perspective.
Blindness...a concern that extends far beyond this command center. Cerrudo’s report found nearly 200,000 vulnerable traffic control sensors were installed in big cities including DC and New York.According to research by the University of Michigan --- a single attacker could change traffic lights and impact 100,000 intersections in the US and Canada.
Cesar Cerrudo: All the systems are exposed to possible cyber attacks.
Joce: Do you look at these attacks as the future of terrorism?
Cesar Cerrudo: They can recruit, you know, hackers, they could recruit people that have knowledge on cyber security and use that knowledge for doing something bad. Luckily I haven't seen that yet. But it's a possibility.
And we’ve already seen glimpses of the damage that can be done. This spring, hackers wreaked havoc - crippling the city’s computer system... while demanding 51-thousand dollars in bitcoin as ransom. Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms...detailing the magnitude.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: This is more than a ransomware attack, this is an attack on our government, which means it’s an attack on all of us.
Atlanta refused to pay the hackers. One city that did - Leeds, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham. Population 12 thousand. Hackers locked the computer system -- and demanded 12 thousand dollars of bitcoin to unlock it. The city paid up -- to get back online. Leeds -- evidence that any city - no matter the size - is vulnerable. Last year, someone hacked the warning system in Dallas - causing 156 emergency sirens to go off in the middle of the night.Baltimore’s 911 dispatch system was temporarily shut down this spring because of a ransomware attack.
Joce: Why are they growing in frequency?
Cesar Cerrudo: All these attacks could seem complex, but they are very easy to do. Usually cyber criminals, they tend to do the least effort for the maximum profit. It’s like they’re looking for the low hanging fruit.
Joce: Have you seen any cities in the states that are doing it right, leading the way and you look at them as a model of security?
Cesar Cerrudo: No, I haven't seen that.
Mayor Suarez admits...Miami isn’t there yet.
Joce: Has specific funding been set aside for the cyber security element of this?
Mayor Suarez: We have a big budget for technology generally. We need to re-engage on our security cyber security front. I don't think we've gone through that analysis and I think we need to go through that analysis.
Joce: Does Miami as a city have an emergency response team specific to a hacking incident, a ransomware incident? Do you have that infrastructure in place ready to go?
Suarez: We probably don't right now and we need to. Most cities .. if cities are not doing this, they should be.
A Wall Street Journal survey recently found that a majority of the 25 most populated US cities now have cyber insurance -- or are looking into buying it.