Cybersecurity for Smart Cities: Challenges, Risks, and Security Best Practices

Smart cities have become a reality today, with governments, businesses, and residents, making use of advanced technology to increase productivity and efficiency at home and the workplace and make lives better. However, the challenges to ensuring safety, security, and data privacy have risen proportionately, leading to the requirement for a unique cybersecurity model for smart cities.

A city using advanced technology infrastructure and other cutting-edge solutions to improve its operational efficiency, provide better services, and improve the lives of its citizens qualifies as a smart city. The technology ecosystem often consists of ICT (Information and communication technology),  IoT (Internet of Things), AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning), Blockchain, Cloud computing, etc. However, using the latest technologies has its challenges of cybersecurity risks, compromising the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) of its citizens. Below is a closer look into cybersecurity risks in smart cities, their challenges, the threats they are exposed to, and the potential solutions to overcome such hurdles.

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What is Azure Governance? Let’s look at the fundamentals

In this blog post, we will discuss the management and operational principles which underpin enterprise governance in Azure which is a necessity for successful cloud adoption and one of the first rails to enable a culture that facilitates digital innovation.

The core components of Azure management are the challenges of Enterprise Cloud Adoption and the components which make up the full set of governance capabilities in Microsoft Azure.

The Azure governance principles are a continuum of tasks, projects and initiatives, therein you build natively in Cloud and also migrate workloads into Azure, securing and protecting those workloads so that they are robust and resilient. You then proceed to monitoring these workloads, so that you can pick up any problems and ensure that they are consuming resources in a manner which is both performant and cost-effective.

Next, you invest in automated configuration to ensure that any changes to your workloads are holistic but also auditable and immutable. Governance ensures that your workloads and the platform on which they run are compliant with your company’s policies and regulatory obligations. This, in turn, creates a more robust enterprise platform, ready to receive new workloads and in turn, a becomes a hub for innovation with the necessary guard rails in place.

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Hyperscale Cloud in China? Microsoft? Mooncake? Alibaba Cloud? Gotchas, pitfalls and directions to successfully navigate it

When Westerners think of hyperscale cloud providers, the usual suspects that come to mind are named Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle, and IBM Cloud. Seldom do you hear another name, which tends to be odd since it is already the world’s third-biggest cloud service provider according to the numbers: Alibaba Cloud. And with yearly revenue growth between 60 and 140%, they sure are catching up fast.

 

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However, to operate a cloud within China there are some hoops you need to jump and you have to collaborate with the regional administration. Provisioning and relocation times, thus, are fundamentally increased, in no little part since tasks must be directed by the local partners. The truth of the matter is that, while it is conceivable, receiving a cloud foundation that does not have a physical presence in China places organizations that operate in China at a colossal detriment.

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Are you a decisionmaker contemplating a migration to the cloud? This is what you need to consider and understand

Information security aspects when moving operations from on-premise

So if you are reading this I will make some basic assumptions that you know about Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and perhaps even Alibaba Cloud, these are renowned hyperscale cloud vendors. Last few years cloud computing have been among the IT industries hottest topics. The term refers to on-demand access to computing resources provisioned by another provider. 2019 has been dubbed the year of migrations by several vendors and a pronounced advantage of cloud computing is that they tend to be highly available and easily scalable. For fast-growing business, cloud-computing has revolutionized the way they can work. Organizations typically lease cloud-based resources from outside the organization. Of course, it is also possible (but not as common) to host cloud-based services internally.

While cloud computing can be very cost-efficient and offer fast scaling, it’s challenged by the fact that resources will most likely be hosted outside of the business’ data centre and therefore, outside of the direct control of that business, increasing the complexity to manage risk and handle governance.

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Quantum cryptography and cryptography in a post-quantum world

So in my previous article on quantum computing, we talked about where we are today, and where we are headed in regards to breakthroughs in the technology as well as touching on some basics of “what is quantum computing“. In this article, I explore what quantum cryptography and cryptography is like in a post-quantum world.

So, a refresher: quantum computing is set to transform cryptography due to the revolutionary, non-deterministic way of operating.

How will they affect existing cryptography algorithms and which options do we know today for doing cryptography in a post-quantum world?

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Quantum computing and cybersecurity: A quantum of solace or a massive threat?

For as long as it has been in development inside the science labs of the universities, corporations and government agencies, quantum computing has been considered the next frontier in cybersecurity. Quantum computers are machines that do not work with classical electrical on and off-states but instead rely on quantum states that can be in several states at once, a circumstance known as „superposition(1)“. While they are still in their very infancy, their capabilities have been mystified over and over and it’s probably fair to say that quantum computing is one of the most misunderstood technological advancements of our day and age.

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Super-human data processing might hold good and bad in store for the cybersecurity field

Within the ongoing arms race in the perimeter of information security, artificial intelligence and machine learning are two of the most promising innovations.

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While AI in common „personal assistants“, like those developed by Amazon, Alibaba and Google has recently reached levels at which it can convincingly make phone calls on behalf of their users, the capabilities of AI in the hands of defenders, as well as attackers, will likely evolve from buzzword to technology of significant importance over the next years.

On the defensive side, artificial intelligence powered intrusion detection will deliver the ability to pick up on anomalies within an organizations network or perimeters and raise alerts or even countermeasures much quicker than would be possible for any human security team. AI technologies supreme and literally superhumanly quick pattern recognition capabilities enable it to consistently collect intelligence regarding new threats, attempted attacks, acceptable user behaviour and constantly evolve its knowledge.   This does allow AI-powered intrusion detection mechanism to find the proverbial needle in the haystack (and react to it) much faster and more concise than classical signature-based intrusion detection systems or a human security analyst.

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Azure Security Center is a cybersecurity solution that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning integrating with the organization’s digital estate.

This does have a flip-side, of course: The same AI capabilities could be used to learn about specific defences and normal user behaviour pattern in an organization and mask the malicious behaviour so it will not be recognized by classical intrusion detection systems or human onlookers.

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Four Azure Tools Which Help You Secure Your Cloud Services

In today’s interconnected cloud-first, mobile world, securing your online apps and services is vital. However, building secure solutions which deliver value in today’s complex and regulated environment can be a challenge. With information essentially becoming the currency of the digital age, the creation of multiple compliance regulations has forced organizations to implement technical security measures to protect their online systems and customers. Meeting these compliance requirements can be challenging, especially if you are leveraging the benefits of the cloud. Not only do you need to build and configure your apps and services securely, but you also need to ensure your chosen cloud provider meets any necessary compliance requirements.

Compliance in the Cloud Compliance Is a Shared Responsibility

On Azure, Microsoft is responsible for meeting the compliance requirements for its platform while you are responsible for any compliance measures which relate to your cloud service.

With more certifications than any other cloud service provider, Azure meets a broad set of international as well as industry-specific compliance standards. These include the GDPR, ISO 27001, HIPAA, SOC, among others. Microsoft also conducts regular comprehensive audits to ensure it maintains these standards and adheres to the security controls needed.

However, as stated, ensuring your services that are running on Azure meet compliance requirements is your responsibility. Thankfully Microsoft Azure provides a few tools which can help you secure your cloud services and meet the necessary compliance standards.

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An update and a recap we are in the middle of 2018!

It’s Summer, the heat in Norway and most of the world is unreal these days with world records being broken. We are in the middle of 2018, and a lot has happened!

I joined Lumagate in March as a Principal Solution Architect, and in May the rebranding to Innofactor was completed which was celebrated with an event called Inspirit that was held in Helsinki.

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Innofactor is a leading provider of digitalization and cloud solutions in the Nordic countries. Our task is to help our customers digitalize their business, promote a collaborative way of working, and develop their business processes by utilizing data-driven decision making and secure cloud services. Together with our customers, partners, employees, and investors we produce solutions that help our customers and society to succeed.

If you are looking for a place where you can work with cutting-edge technology, good colleagues and exciting days, you should definitely check us out.

On the 7th of June, I spoke at GNIST, a cloud seminar put-together by Innofactor. Primed on cloud computing, there were a lot of exciting speakers and topics. I was asked to hold a session, and I did one called “A recipe for Cloud Migration” where I covered getting control over operational costs, increasing workforce productivity and driving business agility by moving to Cloud.

If you are holding an event and have a call for content or speakers, let me know. I’ll check it out, and I can if you want also forward it to other relevant speakers based on topic and audience.

 

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Also at the start of July, I was announced as an Alibaba Cloud Most Valuable Professional which I am incredibly humbled by and appreciative to be recognised by Alibaba Cloud for doing the things I love. Nothing is more rewarding than to be able to do what I’m passionate about technology, security and the intersection of it all with the human element. There is no doubt that Alibaba Cloud is the go-to cloud for anyone looking to have a presence in mainland China.

 

2018 has been a year to symbolise new beginnings and challenges which I am thoroughly enjoying. Working a lot with governance for enterprise organizations as well as hosters in the Nordics and massive datacenter migrations to cloud, I’m looking forward to writing more on this going forward and sharing my insight as well as hearing from you; what your thoughts, gotchas, questions or pitfalls you’d like to ask about or share.

 

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Enjoy the summer and remember to stay hydrated!

If there are any topics or areas you’d like me to focus on, don’t hesitate to let me know! As always you can reach me at @UlvBjornsson, via the comments or by connecting with me on LinkedIn.

Microsoft’s Coco framework: Enhancing cybersecurity on the Blockchain

Article-5-2.jpgCoco Framework, is NOT a blockchain ledger.

Coco is a blockchain ledger framework.

It leverages a combination of trusted execution environments, advanced cryptography and innovative blockchain-focused consensus mechanisms to enable new ways of utilizing the blockchain. Coco stands for Confidential Consortium.

If you want a deeper dive, I suggest you check out the Coco Framework whitepaper, here.

Additionally, Microsoft offers BaaS (Blockchain-as-a-service) and was chosen by Bankchain which is a platform for banks that want to implement blockchain technology; members include State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, DCB Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Federal Bank, Deutsche Bank and UAE Exchange.

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