Cities in Future Days What Happens If Lights Go Out?

In the beginning of an eight-week series of essays about how technology is changing our residence, Jane Wakefield asks whether a city that is plugged into the Internet is vulnerable to hackers.

The nightmare scenario that has had government executives and city leaders biting their fingernails for decades has come true. Chicago is under attack by hackers.

The traffic lights have terminated to function, leaving streets in chaos. The city runs without electricity. It is in the hands of the hackers. If the scenario sounds far-fetched, you’d be right for now at least.

It is actually just an image from recently released video game named Watch Dogs, which features a near-future Chicago in which players control Aiden Pearce, a highly skilled hacker who can invade the urban operating system that is in charge of the infrastructure of the city.

But as cities become ever more connected to the Internet with sensors in everything, including the roads, traffic lights and even the bins, could it truly happen?

While researching the game, Ubisofts brand director, Thomas Geffroyd, was surprised by how easy it was to hack a city.

If hackers get to manipulate the traffic lights, chaos could happen next.

We discovered that there are lots of systems that have been in cities for 20 or 30 years, and they were installed without security in mind, he says.

If you find a weak point, you have access to everything, and it is really easy to hack into the system you simply use a search engine that looks for devices rather than web addresses and then use default passwords and logins to get in.

The worst case scenario, the city is without electricity and the traffic is at a standstill.

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