The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on Tuesday launched an effort aimed at enhancing the cyber security and privacy challenges associated with technologies and systems being developed for modern and future critical infrastructures.

Through the new partnership, DHS and NIST are focused on designing in cyber security and privacy considerations into the technologies and products that help network the critical infrastructures of modern communities.

The Smart and Secure Cities and Communities Challenge (SC3) builds on the Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC) begun by NIST in 2014 that brings together the technology community and state, local and federal government authorities to strengthen partnerships around networked technologies and their use in helping to manage critical infrastructures in cities, towns and rural areas across the U.S. and the world.iStock Cyber Lock

DHS and NIST announced their partnering plans last August. The DHS effort for SC3 is being led by the Cybersecurity Division within the department’s Science and Technology Directorate. The Cybersecurity Division has been working with the private sector the past two to three years on strengthening the cyber security posture of critical infrastructure, Doug Maughan, the division’s director, said at the GCTC-SC3 kickoff conference in Washington, D.C.

Maughan said that that in addition to work on cyber security for critical infrastructures, his division’s efforts in mobile security and software assurance also have relevance to smart cities.

Maughan told Defense Daily that it’s important for his division to be involved in the GCTC because of the cyber security and related privacy challenges associated with increasingly networked transportation systems and utilities like energy, water and waste management systems that make up modern critical infrastructures. Through the new partnership and this week’s conference, Maughan said he is able to offer his more than 100 researchers, many of whom are under contract to his division, to the broader community of state and local government authorities, critical infrastructure stakeholders, and private sector technology developers, to help then address cyber security needs for smart cities and communities.

Cyber security and privacy are critical to economic and national security, Maughan told attendees.

“We love the smart cities idea and the environment,” Maughan said. “We view it as a great avenue for testing and evaluating products and technologies and it gives us a partnership with people that may not have all the technical help they need or may not have all the funding they need but it gives an opportunity for us to test and evaluate products in an operational environment.”

Under the GCTC-SC3 effort, multiple cities and stakeholders organize around share objectives and common solutions. NIST, which is part of the Department of Commerce, has seven “super clusters” within the current program that are built around transportation, a data collection and analysis cluster called for dashboards, public safety, wireless systems, data governance and exchange, agriculture and rural communities, and energy, water and waste management.

Later in 2018 or in early 2019, DHS and NIST will host an SC3 Expo that will bring together the super clusters and other stakeholders to showcase solutions they’ve been working on, to include how they’ve designed in cyber security and privacy considerations.