Cybersecurity in a Built Environment

Modern buildings need to embrace a variety of new systems and technologies. And as the technologies related to building design advance, the construction and architecture domains are becoming more digital. The result is that smart buildings are becoming vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In the past few years, the number of cyber-attacks on smart buildings has risen sharply. With time smart buildings will start communicating with each other within a network of a smart city. This makes the consequences of a planned cyber-attack on a critical building more dangerous. Quite simply, the role of cybersecurity in built environments is an extremely important factor.

Exploiting the Vulnerability of Smart Buildings

Commercial buildings have various computer-driven control systems operating simultaneously. These include HVAC, lighting, parking, elevator, security, etc. They are dependent on multiple IoT devices that may have a high degree of vulnerability. For example, smart buildings come with a Smart building management system (BMS), which collects and analyzes data to optimize energy consumption. Since such systems rely heavily on automation and remote operations, they are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In most cases, these systems are supervised by the corresponding contractors. They might not follow a fixed set of cybersecurity policies or have knowledge about them. Criminals can easily exploit the vulnerability of a smart device through an insecure router by using wireless technology. Any smart building control system including elevators, thermostats, and electricity supply, can be disrupted or manipulated by hackers. Consequently, these will be used for data theft and ransom demands. Unfortunately, most BMS are not designed with cyber security as a priority. In fact, decision-makers in charge of these systems often regard cyber security as a non-critical aspect. Besides, compared to the other industries, there has been a delay in the process of digitization of the building and construction industry. So, the security developments have been late in coming. The writing on the wall is clear. Smart buildings offer the best combination of comfort, convenience, and economic efficiency. But when left unprotected, the number of risks that this technology faces are extremely high.

Integrating Cyber Security Solutions in Smart Buildings

Recent studies have indicated that businesses need to pay more attention to cyber security while purchasing a BMS, HVAC, or any other control system. For this, the facility directors should work together with the IT executives to check system vulnerabilities and establish security features. Here are some of the steps that smart buildings can take to reduce threats and protect sensitive data. Proper Governance All stakeholders in a smart building need to have the right level of know-how about their roles and responsibilities. Each team should ensure that all products and services used by them should have built-in cybersecurity features. A clear set of guidelines should be followed in handling cybersecurity incidents. It is necessary for smart building management teams to have firm control over the number of people who can access and control key network systems, and third-party applications. Any newly introduced app or system should not compromise the security of the other systems. A rigorous assessment is required before introducing new apps to the system. Securing the Supply Chain All partners in the supply chain required for managing a building should meet a minimum standard of cyber security. They should update their process to remove vulnerabilities and reduce the chances of data leakage. Ideally, this should be a part of the business agreement. As a part of this process, all externally sourced components should have the necessary level of security. Also, the initial design of products should address cybersecurity concerns. In reality, addressing security concerns in the early stages of product design is a more cost-effective process. Also, threat and risk assessments by independent cyber security experts should be conducted. This should be done before introducing the product into the building network.   Rasing Cybersecurity Awareness Training and raising the awareness levels of everyone involved in building management is an important step in preventing cyberattacks. Employees should have the right level of guidance when it comes to security-related processes and addressing a threat, Beyond that, proper guidelines should be established for handling security incidents. A clear cybersecurity governance policy can help in dealing with such situations in a timely manner. In short, each person should be able to take the necessary steps to mitigate the effects of a security breach Full Compliance with Cybersecurity Standards The building management should make sure to comply with the latest cybersecurity regulations. These include the IEC 62443, ISO 27001, and the EU-level European NIS Directive. All stakeholders, including the owners, building operators, planners, and system integrators, will benefit from the implementation of these standards. This will lead to a precise definition of the security requirements and proper documentation. So, the overall framework of IT security will be enhanced.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, smart building owners cannot afford to neglect the cybersecurity issues in the built environment any longer. Developing a comprehensive cybersecurity policy is a must to keep tomorrow’s smart buildings safe from attacks. At Recotech, we will discuss the latest developments in cybersecurity in the built environment with top experts from around the globe. Join us to learn more!

September 14, 2022