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5 Essential Tips to Safeguard Your City Against Cyber Threats

January 9, 2024

Multiple Contributors

Vivianne Gravel, CEO and Founder, BCITI Solutions Inc. Hugo Langlais, Software Engineer, BCITI Solutions, Inc. Sylvain Hallé, Professor, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi Raphael Khoury, Université du Québec en Outaouais
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The ongoing digital transformation of cities, coupled with citizens' growing proficiency and adoption of digital products and services, brings numerous advantages. These encompass more streamlined service delivery, improved utilization of city personnel, positive environmental impacts, and lowered operational costs. However, it remains crucial for both city governments and citizens to prioritize robust cybersecurity measures for several reasons:

  1. City services involve handling sensitive data related to citizens, employees, and partners.
  2. Cities must invest resources in maintaining and securing IT systems, addressing vulnerabilities promptly.
  3. Strong cybersecurity practices play a vital role in safeguarding the critical infrastructure of cities.
  4. Cyberattacks on cities can lead to costly and potentially hazardous disruptions to essential services.

In the past couple of years, Canadians have grown increasingly worried about cyber security threats and digital security, with ransomware attacks making the news almost daily. In addition to the private and financial information at risk, important services Canadian citizens rely on, such as hospitals, schools, city services, and utilities, face the threat of serious disruption. 

Because Canadians have demonstrated an increased proficiency in internet usage, and a greater number of citizens are shifting towards hybrid work setups, the potential for cyber-security breaches has grown as well. Additionally, as Canada continues to embrace smart systems and cities become more digitally enabled, more sectors and services face an increased threat of cyber breaches. 

Fortunately, a significant number of cyber threats can be minimized by fostering awareness and adhering to best practices in cybersecurity. 

Here are five key tips to strengthen your city’s cybersecurity:

English (22)

Set Up a Secure Infrastructure

  • Systems Audit and Update:  Regularly auditing a city's IT systems is crucial for identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity experts can conduct comprehensive assessments to ensure that the systems are up-to-date and secure against evolving threats.
  • Secure your networks: Implement firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and secure public Wi-Fi connections.
  • Regular Software Updates and Patch Management: Ensure that all software and operating systems are regularly updated to correct security vulnerabilities. This ensures that vulnerabilities are addressed promptly, reducing the risk of exploitation. 

Train and Raise Awareness Among Staff and Citizens

  • Training programs: Conduct regular training for city staff on cybersecurity best practices, including recognizing and dealing with phishing attempts and other types of attacks.
  • Awareness campaigns: Launch awareness campaigns to educate citizens about online security risks and ways to protect themselves. Utilizing various platforms for awareness campaigns, such as online channels, libraries, or government waiting rooms, will ensure a broad reach.

Implement Incident Response Plans

  • Emergency protocols: Establish clear protocols for responding to cybersecurity incidents, including how to contain the attack, recover data, and communicate with stakeholders.
  • Response teams: Have a dedicated cybersecurity incident response team ready to act quickly in the event of a breach.

Strengthen Data Security

  • Data encryption: Use strong encryption to protect sensitive data, especially that relating to citizens and critical infrastructure
  • Regular backups: Ensure regular, secure backups of important data to enable rapid recovery in the event of an attack.

Collaboration and Information Sharing

  • Collaboration with other cities and government entities: Share cybersecurity information and best practices with other cities and government entities.
  • Private Sector Partnerships: Collaborate with cybersecurity companies to benefit from their expertise and resources.

In conclusion, safeguarding cities against the rise of cyber threats is imperative in an era of ongoing digital transformation. While the benefits of enhanced digital capabilities are evident, the potential risks demand a proactive approach from both city governments and citizens. Sensitive data handling, resource investment in IT systems, and the protection of critical infrastructure underscore the need for robust cybersecurity practices.

The BCITI Digital Lab

The BCITI Digital Lab is a specialized initiative designed to support cities in navigating and implementing key provisions of private data protection laws. This helps ensure that city governments and citizens are protected against cyber-security threats. Functioning as a practical implementation hub, the Digital Lab assists cities in automating compliance with legislative mandates, translating theoretical concepts into actionable strategies to enhance citizen trust.

The BCITI Digital Lab is a resource for cities aiming to navigate the complexities of data privacy laws. Through the lab, we provide practical support, training, and customization to foster compliance, efficiency, and increase cybersecurity measures. 

About Solutions BCITI Solutions Inc. 

BCITI develops and markets an intelligent citizen services platform, bciti+, and promotes city connectivity while ensuring the ethical management of citizen data. In January 2024, B-CITI launched the Digital Lab to help cities and municipalities automate the protection of their citizens' private data. 

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Multiple Contributors
Article written by Multiple Contributors
Vivianne Gravel, CEO and Founder, BCITI Solutions Inc. Hugo Langlais, Software Engineer, BCITI Solutions, Inc. Sylvain Hallé, Professor, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi Raphael Khoury, Université du Québec en Outaouais
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