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Smart city tech needs a strong data architecture

Before city CIOs begin to introduce smart city technology to city employees and to their constituents, they should make sure they’ve got the right data foundation in place. Jennifer Belissent, an analyst with Forrester Research, recommends city CIOs get their IT infrastructure in order before making any investments in smart city tech.

“Once I started to talk to cities, I realized that some cities aren’t necessarily ready for all of this advanced technology,” said Belissent, who has been researching and writing about smart cities since 2009. So she took a step back and began advising city CIOs start with the basics.

She suggests city CIOs begin by taking stock of their current infrastructure, rationalizing multiple versions of the same software (asset management, for example, can be a culprit for city CIOs), and even upgrading legacy applications, which may have been installed 30 years ago and written in coding languages nobody uses anymore, she said.

“Sometimes people will say, ‘That’s not really smart cities,'” Belissent said. “But it absolutely is. It’s a much more rational use of a city budget, and it’s a foundation on which you can build a smart city.”

She also suggests that CIOs take a close look at how they treat data. “A lot of quote-unquote smart city solutions are based on embedding sensors in city infrastructure. And the whole idea of the sensor is to capture data from that piece of infrastructure,” Belissent said.

But if cities don’t have the data management capabilities, the data governance capabilities or the analytics maturity to use the data that’s captured, smart city tech investments will be wasted.

“You’ve got to be able to collect, store, secure, manage, govern access to that data, and, ultimately, to be able to use it,” she said. Cities should take into account the entire data cycle and ensure the proper processes are in place before pulling the trigger on a smart city project.

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looks like marketing BS putting fud at work to sell
A recent survey suggests that over half of IT professionals* now recognise the dangers of targeted attacks, but despite this awareness those surveyed are worryingly uncertain of their ability to deal with them.

The problem is the continued over reliance on antivirus (AV) technologies, with a staggering 92%* of those surveyed relying on traditional AV to protect their servers. The temptation to rely on AV is understandable: in an over –worked IT department any set-up-and-go system has appeal. But in an era that is increasingly dominated by the Advanced Persistent Threats, relying on AV is not just complacent it is ill-judged.

However, the good news is that some organisations are now recognising the benefits of File Integrity Monitoring (FIM), with 37% of organisation surveyed claiming to be using it. FIM is proven to radically reduce the risk of security breaches; indeed it is a core recommendation of the PCI DSS and other security standards. It raises an alert related to any change in underlying, core file systems – whether that has been achieved by an inside man or an unwittingly phished employee introducing malware, or some other zero day threat blasting unrecognised through the AV.

To date too many organisations have failed to implement FIM for fear of the additional work load created by a system that flags every single unauthorised change – a fact that says rather too much about the anarchic attitudes towards change management endemic within most organisations. For organisations with robust change management processes, with clearly defined patch windows and no changes made without request and authorisation, implementing and running FIM is a breeze: the only time alerts are flagged are when actual security concerns arise.

Organisations need to safeguard data- the threat is stealthy and targeted. It is time not just to pick the right battle – but to arm the business with the right defences. And the 'If it's not broke, don't fix it’ attitude to traditional AV must be changed if organisations are to fully safeguard against the increasing ranges of threats out there today.

Mark Kedgley, CTO, New Net Technologies