Tech & Science

Canada’s spy agency warns ‘smart city’ platforms pose security risks – National

Canadian intelligence agencies warn technological innovations adopted by local governments could be exploited by adversaries such as the Chinese government to collect sensitive data, target diasporic communities and interfere in elections doing.

A new report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service advises policymakers and the technology industry on what they can do to address and mitigate emerging security threats before widespread adoption of “smart city” platforms. I urge you to consider what you can do.

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Such systems feature electronically linked devices that collect, analyze, store and transmit information through a centralized platform. Next, local governments can use artificial intelligence to efficiently control operations and services, change traffic lights at optimal times, manage energy usage, and track the location of public bicycle rentals. will do so.

“One of the major security concerns associated with smart cities is the selection of large, continuously processed data pools that can be exploited to reveal behavioral patterns of individuals and societies. and retention will be required,” the report said.

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“These concerns are heightened by the lack of control and visibility over where this data is stored and who has access to it.”

The CSIS report, produced for 2021, was just recently released to the Canadian Press in response to a request for access to the information filed in October of that year.

Technological innovation and data integration can make processes more efficient, but they can also pose security risks, warns CSIS.

“Smart city devices collect vast amounts of personal data, including biometric data and other information that highlights an individual’s life choices and patterns. We are exploring various avenues to gain access to future smart city platforms, including enterprise-provided access.”

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Canadian local governments may be willing to agree technology partnerships with foreign companies that grant hostile or undemocratic nations access to collect data, CSIS warned.

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Western countries’ smart city projects face backlash over privacy concerns, but China “wholeheartedly embraces the concept,” giving its tech firms a competitive edge, report says. . The advantages of artificial intelligence in Beijing lie in access to big data, looser privacy requirements, and cheap labor to classify data and build AI algorithms.

According to CSIS, China is using these new technologies to support “digital authoritarianism,” using advanced technology to monitor, oppress, and manipulate people at home and abroad.

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Meanwhile, next-generation networks and interconnection technologies are likely to become deeply embedded in municipal critical infrastructure over the next decade, increasing the potential for “backdoor” access, the report said. The main concern is that a single compromise can leave all devices vulnerable to interference and attack.

“In other words, data collected through bike-sharing apps could theoretically increase access to other connected devices, such as a city’s energy grid, water supply or traffic light management database,” the report said. says.

“An exposure of this kind would have serious financial, social, health and safety implications in Canada. Imagine a scenario where you simultaneously control traffic lights to thwart an emergency response.”

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Legitimate access to data may come through contracts between cities and businesses, while illegal access may occur internally through built-in features of foreign equipment and software, or through cyberattacks and data breaches. It can occur externally as a result of a compromise, the report said.

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Canada’s spy chief warns of foreign interference

This data can then be used to target specific elements of Canadian society. For example, it can limit public debate targeting Chinese diaspora communities, infrastructure such as natural gas plants, water treatment plants, central government databases, democratic political processes such as elections, and civil society groups. increase. Add free expression.

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David Murakami Wood, a professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in surveillance, security and technology, says countries such as China, Iran and Russia are using data collection technologies to track diasporic populations, individuals considered dissidents. is a genuine concern. .

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“There is no innocent data,” he said in an interview.

Murakami-Wood cautioned against believing that the data is somehow more secure if it is kept entirely in Canadian hands. He said it’s common for users to seek access to large data pools.

“For example, if a very large national database is built, sooner or later the police will want to access it, and they will come up with an argument as to why they should.”

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While it makes sense to connect some municipal services to the online world, others, such as hospitals, may be too sensitive to the risks of connecting to cyberspace, Wood said. I’m here.

“If you want to have a very smart city, the first thing you should really think about is what you don’t want connected.”

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Taking the necessary steps to address smart city security threats will require well-informed debate and consultation at all levels of government, says the CSIS report.

“Different authorities have jurisdiction over different elements of this challenge. Key among these are local governments that are leading the way in terms of implementation and contractual arrangements with technology vendors. ”

The report also recommends:

  • Work with partners in the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance to identify the risks posed by smart city technologies.
  • Gather information and develop advice on adversary smart city progress and benefits to support Canada’s position in negotiations on international technical standards and governance.and
  • Ensure that Canadian technology and data are not used to support the development of technology that is employed in a manner contrary to democratic values.

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