Don’t throw away the keys to your smart building – make cybersecurity a priority

The true potential of smart buildings is beginning to be realised. Increased connectivity, thanks to the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), means building owners and managers can now understand how the technologies deployed within a facility are performing, so they can predict if maintenance is required before an alert is even triggered. Furthermore, temperature and lighting adjustments can be made to either save energy or increase employee productivity. Optimised site-cleaning has also become a great time-saver, with sensors enabling facility managers to assign their staff to only clean areas that have been used and therefore require cleaning[1].

And smart buildings are not just a vision for the future. The Edge in Amsterdam is perhaps considered the current peak in smart building design. It has a great focus on sustainability with toilets that flush with rainwater, a robot security guard on premises, and smart ceilings that measure temperature, light, motion and humidity to provide energy cost-savings. This manner of connectivity within office buildings in only set to grow as more connected IoT devices are introduced. The current amount of money spent of networked lighting, physical security, infrastructure and comfort systems is predicted to increase from what is currently a $7.42 billion market, to a $31.74 billion one by 2022[2].


Deploying connected technologies in smart buildings
This technology enables positive growth, although with increased connectivity also comes a greater attack surface that attackers will seek to exploit. The question is, are building managers and owners taking the risks seriously? Possibly not, as evidenced when researchers were able take control of lighting, air conditioning, curtains and other equipment in a Marriot hotel room. This was achieved via vulnerable KNX network components, a network communication protocol for building management automation used in stadiums, hotels, airports and industrial facilities.

Although this is just one example, the concern is a very real one. There are more than 206 million connected devices in use in commercial smart buildings, with 84% of building automation system managers utilising internet connected systems. However, only 29% of those are improving cybersecurity for their connected systems[3]. This is troubling, with hackers regularly scanning targets for easy access points, whether that be through poorly deployed sensors, CCTV cameras or access control systems. Once inside a network, they could attempt to shut down critical functions meaning a loss of productivity, or steal valuable data and demand ransom payments. That is why incorporating cybersecurity into smart buildings is a necessity.

Locking the doors to your smart building network
Deploying a secure by design approach is a must in smart building design. Cybersecurity should be thought about at the beginning of the design, development and deployment process, whether that be for a new build, or the integration of internet-connect systems into a pre-existing infrastructure. The latter point is often when problems arise. Installing new devices into legacy systems can often lead to insecure networks, which hackers can seek to exploit.

When deploying new technologies on a network, staff training is another vital undertaking. As the first line-of-defence for many businesses, identifying malicious emails, or knowing what devices should and shouldn’t be connected to a network without the appropriate risk assessments, is a skill that all employees should possess.

These are basic cybersecurity measures that building owners, suppliers and mangers must think about to ensure the security of smart buildings, but this isn’t just a lesson for the future. Many buildings are already smart and are getting smarter. Now is the time to prioritise the cybersecurity of the technologies deployed within buildings to ensure that a hacker doesn’t find a key to your businesses systems, your network, or your data.

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