Recent attacks on (some) smart cities in the US

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

As I was listening this morning to one of my favorite tech shows, ‘Smashing Security‘, I realized I didn’t quite cover an important aspect of ‘smart cities’ in my recent post “Smart Cities and the Fourth Industrial Revolution“. While in my previous post I briefly touch on issues like privacy and the dehumanization of data, I did not explore at the issue of security.

With the large quantity of data generated in (by?) smart cities and all the computer systems put in place to make city life more efficient, also comes vulnerability. Smart cities incorporate technology to solve many urban conundrums such as parking spaces, traffic management, and even affordable housing, but making them secure is a big issue that will need to be solved fast.

On episode 142 of Smashing Security (I know I’m a little behind, but as a graduate student I do my best to keep up), the hosts of the podcast talk about the several ransomware attacks that smart cities around the US have recently been subject to. Twenty-two of these attacks happened in Texas in 2019 only! The attacks cause more than just data breaches; attackers are able to ‘hold a city hostage’ by freezing its cyber-infrastructure and impair people’s access to online services or even to retrieve important online documents like digital birth certificates, among other things.

When I heard this news, I didn’t know that Texas had 22 smart cities, least that they had been attacked. However, Smashing Security’s co-host Carole Theriault said something key about smart cities during the show: how smart is a smart city is a matter of degree. So how much cyber-infrastructure is in place and how much of it can be targeted because of its vulnerabilities is also a matter of degree. The podcast mentions a few more attacks than the ones in Texas and goes on in detail about what the attackers ask for in return and how these cities have dealt in different ways with these problems.

As I hope that this trend of attacks gets stopped soon, one thing I think is clear to me: while we are living in this time where cities are not fully ‘smart’, we need to start integrating cybersecurity best practices into our culture on all levels…

To listen for free to this episode of Smashing Security, you can follow this link, or you can find the show on iTunes, Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts. While you are there, remember to check out our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies, by Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona.


  • For a deeper discussion on the infrastructure of smart cities, you can check out this post and the references within episode 142 of Smashing Security.

UCS 009 Klausen on Urban Geocaching in Copenhagen

UCS 009 Klausen on Urban Geocaching in Copenhagen (8 June 2014)

Conversational interview inspired by scholar Maja Klausen’s article “Re-enchanting the city: Hybrid space, affect and playful performance in geocaching, a location-based mobile game,” published in the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies (1.2, 2014). Based on ethnographic research conducted with geocaching players in Copenhagen, Denmark, topics range from a basic introduction to the theoretical underpinnings of geocaching, from the notion of the “magic circle” of play and the reinterpretation of urban spaces as enacted by players in specific urban sites. [LINK TO ORIGINAL PUBLISHER]

Madrid’s Gran Vía Digital Humanities Project

Brief video introduction [created with Camtasia 2] explaining a student-produced Digital Humanities project investigating Madrid’s Gran Vía [created with Omeka / Neatline].

This way of approaching DH work is particularly conducive to urban-scaled projects, and does not require extensive data mining or GIS components – although these approaches could certainly be integrated. (I will be presenting this project alongside my colleague at a June conference in Charleston titled: Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library.)

Explore the map-interface of the actual DH project here.

Justin Hodgson (Kairos): Walking in the Electra(City): A Fevered and Frivolous Spectacle

Read the abstract in its original context here at Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy (and below)

Watch the project here:

Walking in the (Electra)City: A Fevered and Frivolous Spectacle

Justin Hodgson


“What is no longer archived in the same way is no longer lived in the same way”

— Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever, 1995.

In 1984, Michel de Certeau, writing about the practices of everyday life, exposed us to a different way of thinking about our movements through (and our relationships with) the city as the center of cultural activity. While governments, institutions, and other structures of power designed the city according to particular strategies, for de Certeau it was the “tactical” movements of “passers by” that gave meaning to spaces and places of the city: that is, the walkers, wanderers, and window-shoppers created new paths through and new uses for the cityscape. They defined and redefined the city, and, in so doing, transformed (if not transcended) the strategic imposition.

Move forward nearly 30 years. The center of cultural activity now resides in the digital ether, the electra-city (here offered as a metonym for electrate culture); and it is ferried to you (rather than you to it) by tele-technologies, mediascapes, mobile devices, social networks, and so on. Given this shift, how might we need to rethink or even reconstitute de Certeau’s position in light of the 21st century? For not only are the ways we move through space itself notably altered (morphed by the cellular and computation prosthetics that aid in our daily activities), but the very notions of walking and city have also been Continue reading