Back to the list

The Smart City Risks: Who Will Control Your Fridge?

Ann Sotnikova

We have already illuminated what the smart city is like and what technologies will be used at the household level in the future. However, in continuation of the topic, it is worth paying attention to another important development, without which the smart city system is practically unthinkable. It's about biometrics.

Everyone has probably faced this concept before, but for those who are living under the rock, we’ll clarify. Simply speaking, biometrics is a unique anatomical, behavioral, and physiological characteristics. Thanks to them, you can quickly and accurately identify the person. Base characteristics include:

  • fingerprints (this is the most popular method of recognition, currently used to unlock many smartphones and access some applications);

  • iris;

  • voice;

  • facial features (video cameras with identification function for this parameter are installed in crowded places for safety);

  • DNA sample.

As a part of smart city technologies based on biometrics possess a huge field of activity. Scanning the eye shell, a favorite technique of the creators of the so-called "futuristic films", is only the tip of the biometric iceberg. It is possible that we are waiting for such technologies we are not able even to imagine.

However, even today we can talk about some innovations that are likely to overtake us in the foreseeable future. For example, recently the Japanese company Hitachi together with KDDI has reported on the successful testing of the project where biometrics was closely intertwined in daily processes. We will not go into details and immediately move on to the final result: ordinary people were able to purchase donuts at a local store, using only their fingerprints to pay.

It is possible to train the imagination, wondering what biometric technologies we will get in a long perspective, so let's leave it to the companies. In any area, you can face a number of pitfalls and issues that can put the average user to a standstill. And biometrics is no exception to the rule.

Biometric data is perhaps the most valuable information of each person, through which you can perform any operation. Some concepts of smart city suggest that in order to conduct many operations (the same example with the purchase of donuts), this information should get into the databases of commercial companies. Of course, noble traders say that all data will be in databases, to which no one will have access, etc. But there is always a risk and 100% objectively that no one can guarantee the protection from its vulnerability. So, does it turn out that it’s impossible to achieve the maximum level of protection of personal data from hacking? Thus, it becomes important to solve these problems of cybersecurity, because everyone would like to live in a smart city and not to be afraid of personal information stealing. Bitnewstoday.com has conducted a survey among world experts.

Speaking about the possibilities of data loss prevention, a cyber safety specialist from the Czech Republic Jindrich KARASEK says:

“Making the end-users to do informed decisions is only one part. The other part is to develop systems with the security in the mind from the beginning instead of developing a so-so working solution with hot patches to fulfill at least the general security requirements given by the legislation”.

According to the expert’s opinion, biometry itself is awesome. But in order to build a security system on it, people have to understand all the implications first. For example, like a face shape can change by accident, the retinal structure is changing during the lifetime and so do the fingerprints. Multi-factor identification should be always used. And so if the data were stolen, it should not be possible to misuse the information as it would be always only one part of the person's identity.

Speaking about methods of improving such systems, Jindrich KARASEK believes that identity and access management should be matured to the level when not only identification but also authorization will be used. Also, the user's data should be always encrypted anywhere they go. Systems working with them should be secured so no rootkit would be possible to be placed there to get the data from the memory beside the regular user.

The specialist also says that it is the best people can do now because of a never-ending race with the hackers and ones to protect the systems from them. Human factor plays an important role because it can cause failure even within the most ideal security system.

Another expert — Richard KASTELEIN (the Netherlands) — sees data recovery in transferring them to the blockchain: “Blockchain technology combined with AI and biometrics is the key. Blockchain secures the data, biometrics ensures it's true and AI stitches it all together. Bitcoin has never been hacked. The blockchain is an immutable record. It's the key to keeping what we call a self-sovereign identity in the future. We will control our data and those who want access will have to pay tokens. This is a part of an emerging science called Tokenomics. Imagine a vault, protected by blockchain and a wallet system, which provides access. An Israeli company called DNATIX is working on such a system for a self-sovereign protection of one's DNA. Any access needs tokens and permission to be approved.”

Ahmed BANAFA, an expert from San-Francisco supports the same logic: “One option is to use blockchain technology as a part of securing any data. It’s also necessary to keep everything up to date and monitor the network for any unusual activities”.

But the most important aspect, according to Ahmed BANAFA, is to educate citizens to have strong passwords, something people call "Cybersecurity Hygiene".

As in all matters, speaking of saving biometric data, it is impossible to identify the only correct and possible solution. There is the diligence of the developers, the computer literacy of the people participating in the system required. Whether the ubiquitous blockchain provides security and comfort for users, it is impossible to say unequivocally because it is too unstable while operating in different spheres. So we can only closely monitor the development of this industry and hope that one day the refrigerator will not blackmail you with personal information.

Back to the list