How to make our cities smarter and trustworthy?

1 avril 2019

Nowadays when the option to make connected low-cost devices is increasing, the vision of smart city becomes more and more viable. Adding cameras for security and safety, adding traffic sensors to make the traffic better, adding environment sensors and more and more to make our cities connected, controller and improve our quality of life and make our cities a safer and better place.


In order to control and monitor everything, all those devices need to be connected to Command and Control or Operational Center that can engage, find malfunction devices, update and more. Some of this already exist (e.g. connected traffic lights) , however , with the cost reduction of devices and connectivity we see increase of it and it clear that the future bring us to the era of smart connected city.


As always, with great opportunity there is also increased risks – once our cities become connected and controlled, it raise the cyber risk – what will happen if adversary would comprise the system? The devices? the connectivity? the command center? Image a scenario that someone can manipulate the cameras and project rough inputs, image what will happen when terror organization will manipulate the traffic controllers.


Some of those scenarios were presented in science fiction or futuristic movies but as our cities become smarter and connected it become less science fiction and more realistic, scary scenarios.

Making smart city more secure and trustworthy is a challenging task since the edge devices are spread in the city and by definition are exposed to general population with limited restriction. Also, the network is exposed whether it is wireless connectivity (e.g. LORA,5G,WiFi) or even wired – in both cases since it is in public environment – malicious elements can penetrate it.


The smart city situation seems to be very challenging – not only that edge devices and the network are exposed, all the economic justification of such a project rely also on cost effectiveness which means that there is highly sensitive to cost on the edge device, which seems to prevent the option to add hard security controllers to the edge device.


A new innovative approach come to solve those challenges in “out-of-the box” concept – cloud-to-flash which protects the firmware of the edge device from any un-authorize manipulation in the memory itself. By this approach even in case of physical or network breach, the firmware in the memory can’t be comprised.


This approach takes the capability from the processor in those devices to modify the content of the firmware, and by this, by definition take it from any kind of adversary. It is also very cost-effective solution cause it is HW solution that been done without adding modules to the system (it is part of existing memory) or make complicates SW integration or development.


This approach now been embraced by the leading flash vendors to the smart city devices (e.g. Micron, Cypress, Winbond and more) and the innovative company NanoLock Security.



Another challenge in smart city is the operational aspect, once we achieved a ironclad device protection that can resist physical and networks attacks – how can we assure a secure update and trusted manageable system?

Today, in many cases the update mechanism done by a technician that need to connect to the edge device cause lack on trust in existing secure updating mechanism which raise the concern that any remote update will raise the risk of attack and manipulation of the device. This raises a huge operational cost which lead to lack of updates and more down-time scenarios.


Moreover, the data that get from the edge devices in many cases consider to be un-trusted since the SW that running on the devices had trustworthy issues – therefor any system that uses this data may lead to wrong conclusion.

It is required to have secure update mechanism that will enable remote update and trusted management that will be trustworthy.

The new approach of cloud-to-flash actually enable it, by creating secure channel between cloud to flash, it is now possible to have secure update all the way from the cloud to the flash regardless the status of the network and the processor with trustworthy status from the flash regarding the version is installed in the flash.


This secure channel is also can be used to bring back status and report from the flash back to the management server with indication on attacks that been prevented, downtime of the device, version and more. All this information is trustworthy since the SW on the processor can’t manipulate it.


This approach bring holistic solution to the challenges in smart cities and IoT domains by increase the security of the edge device, and un-like other solutions, with no increase the BoM cost and reduce operational costs like technician update , un-expected down-time , monitoring device in advance.


Due to this, it been embraced by the industrial, automotive and IoT domains.


Thales as leading vendor to smart city and innovative industrial company leading this revolution in its product lines because it identifies this cost reduction with higher security which is pillar in any Thales product.


Contact : Yoni Kahana -