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There could be an estimated 2.3 billion connected devices in smart cities this year — a 42% increase since 2016. But the ubiquity of these devices is becoming a hacker's paradise, and smart cities could quickly become a security nightmare.

What they are: Smart cities "rely on interconnected devices to streamline and improve city services based on rich, real-time data," according to Harvard Business Review. That could be everything from sensors that reduce the energy used in street lights to devices that regulate the distribution of water.

The goal is to improve a city's livability and to utilize smart technologies to streamline its infrastructure.

The problem: These devices rely on real-time, accurate information, so if a hacker gets hold of their network, the entire city's programming could be thrown off. This has already happened: Hackers set off 158 emergency sirens throughout Dallas on April 8.

Smart cities:

  • In South Korea, one city installed smart sensors to regulate water and energy, slashing building operating costs by 30 percent.
  • Barcelona uses smart water meter technology, which saved the city $58 million annually.

One systemic flaw: "Cities currently using a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, are particularly susceptible to frequent hacks due to poor security protocols. Though SCADA systems control large-scale processes and unify decentralized facilities, they lack cryptographic security and authentication factors. If a hacker targets a city's SCADA system, they could threaten public health and safety, and shut down multiple city services from a single entry point."

What's next: There will be an estimated 50 billion connected devices by 2020. Smart cities will need to secure their critical, digital infrastructure from hackers seeking to wreak havoc on the area.

Go deeper

Updated 12 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

14 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.