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“Cybersecurity in Smart Cities”: Arab Thought Forum’s Round Table

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The think tank “Arab Thought Forum” (ATF) in Amman, Jordan, organized a round table discussion on the theme of “Cybersecurity in Smart Cities” on 11 May 2022.

Many prominent people took part at this round table, including:

  • Dr. Mohammad Abou Hammour, former Finance Minister of Jordan and General Secretary of ATF
  • Ms. Sawsan Z. Muhtadi, an expert in e-government and author of the book: “Cybersecurity in Smart Cities”
  • Dr. Yussef Assaf, Director of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Dubai
  • Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Center for Global Competitiveness
  • Dr. Ahmed Alamm, an expert in artificial intelligence
  • Bilal Al-Hafnawi, board member of the telecommunication authority in Jordan
  • Dr. Bilal Ayoub, Professor at Al Balqa University and ESCWA’s expert on artificial intelligence strategies

During the round table, Ms. Muhtadi presented her book and its different chapters. She explained that the book’s objectives were to create awareness, bring the issues of smart cities closer to Arab readers, and give policymakers some axes for reflection. The various participants commented on the book and took the opportunity to discuss the development of smart cities, including the requirements and impacts of such cities, especially on Jordan’s economic and social landscape. In addition, they highlighted the opportunities offered to young, well-educated Jordanians to contribute to the development of smart cities in the region.

The development of cyber warfare

Prompted by the current war in Ukraine, Dia-Eddine talked about the development of cyber warfare. He highlighted changes to war paradigms in recent decades, transforming cities into battlefields and military targets. This was due to the blurring of boundaries between civil and military objects and objectives, the dual use of services and facilities in these cities, and changes in the concept of war owing to its military, political, diplomatic, economic, and economic-informational dimensions. Changes in the way wars are fought and technological advances also added another layer of complexity. Today, the extension of war into cyberspace has transformed cities – and smart cities especially – into total-war-strategy targets.

Dia-Eddine explained the four blocks of cyberwarfare: First, there is cyberspace, which is the place where confrontation happens. Today, smart city infrastructure, services, communication networks, and the data generated or memorized are part of this space. Second, there is cyber power, which utilizes means and facilities to gain authority and control. This includes the intention to use this power, especially in its cyber form. Third, cyber warfare combines the tactics and means used to achieve the fourth block – cyber strategy.

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Smart cities are vulnerable

Cyber strategy is part of a broader strategy for achieving higher political goals. From this perspective, smart cities are vulnerable since they offer a comprehensive range of targets for states, state-supported organizations, or criminals. This leads decision-makers and security officials to consider methods and strategies to defend smart cities – especially if an attack comes in the form of cyber warfare. He also noted that the increasing volume of data and development of smart cities (with investment here expected to reach USD 6 trillion by 2030) would reduce any defense capacity. This would result in further losses due to cyber-attacks, which could reach USD 10 trillion by 2025. Finally, Dia-Eddine pointed out that such positioning involves many risks related to a nation’s sovereignty and the safeguarding of human rights.

The round table concluded with a discussion lasting about an hour. Local media representatives showed great interest and reported on the event with extensive excerpts from the articles. Among them were Addustour, Al Ra’iy, Mahalliyat, Karam News, Saraha News, Akhbarnanet.com, Al Awal News, Nayrouz.com, Roya News, Al Ghad, and Post News.

Contact: Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, International Management Institute