Since last month, several city governments have fallen victim to ransomware, with which hackers took possession of data used to run a smart city, paralyzed all the online service and asked for ransom before giving the data back.

The victims included a county government in California, a city government in Maine, the state capital of New York, and most recently, the government of Baltimore in Maryland, as marked in the map above.

In the case of Baltimore, hackers demanded 13 bitcoins to decrypt city files that were being held hostage. However, they compromised the government much more than 13 bitcoins but one-week taken-down of smart city service, as well as citizens’ trust in the system.

How important are data for smart city?

The concept of smart city arose with problems in urban life. Traffic jam during rush hours, long travel from your place to administrative agencies, criminals at large, so and so are the problems caused by crumbling infrastructures and inefficient information exchange.

As a network striving to connect everything real-time and online, it takes a tremendous amount of information to build a smart city.

For example, to alleviate traffic jam, there are surveillance cameras and sensors telling which part of city undertakes greater pressure than other areas; meanwhile, the automatic navigation system on your vehicle would recommend you a less-crowded road to your destination. Facial recognition makes it easier to capture drivers who violate traffic rules.

Without data that keep a record of all the information about you and around you, the city won’t be smart enough to play its role.

What’s the result of having smart city data kidnapped?

Having smart city data kidnapped means that hackers use ransomware to restrict access, through encryption for example, to governments’ vital information, such as citizens’ personal identifiable information (PII) and governmental documents.

“Atlanta had everything in the ‘smart city,’ so even court systems were taken offline, no one could pay anything through the city because the systems were taken offline.” According to Gizmodo in its interview with Recorded Future’s Allan Liska,

Such is the dilemma that comes along with adopting state-of-the-art technology – we are conducting tests and trials against the risk and danger. After all, it’s one thing to let an algorithm direct road crews or build a facial recognition system to identify drivers, while it’s another thing to have cities prepared to deal with the inevitable security problems that will pop up.

Any way out?

Attitudes differ when people are confronted with smart city failed by hackers. Some are still for smart city, as long as we keep working on its security issues; some stay cautious, for example, San Francisco passes city government ban on facial recognition tech used by city agencies this Tuesday.

The sad truth is, smart city is not the only target of ransomware. If you are currently working for a SMB (Small and Medium Business), for example, you are most likely to subject to ransomware attack — the percentage reached 71% among all attacks of the kind last year according to Health Its Security.

If you are a freelancer, as convenient as it is to send crucial information to the other party through email, hackers consider it a lucrative job to do by encrypting your emails and asking for a ransom.

Take precaution against ransom emails

In contrast to city governors who can decide whether to restrain the development of smart city, email users don’t really have the choice of not emailing. Snail mail is a nightmare.

Although emailing is not as safe as you once assumed, the point here is to take precaution before email attack happens. The foolproof method is to conduct backups on a regular basis in case your emails are tampered or encrypted by hackers. As you’ve already had access to your backup data, there is no need to pay the ransom anyway.

This is exactly what Mr. Guard is doing – keeping an eye on data tampering for you with real-time alerts  and constantly saving your emails on the Cloud. As an add-in for Outlook, web browsers and mobile phones, it meets your need in all scenarios of emailing.

Providing free service, it does not require you to allocate any budget while mitigating risk for you. Currently available on Microsoft AppSource.