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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

5 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.

7 hours ago - World

Scoop: Germany urges Congress not to sanction Putin’s pipeline

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The German government has urged members of Congress not to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, arguing that doing so will "weaken" U.S. credibility and "ultimately damage transatlantic unity," according to documents obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: At a time when roughly 100,000 Russian troops are massing at its border, Ukraine views Nord Stream 2 as an existential threat to its security. The pipeline would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion.