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Smart buildings and cybersecurity: what you need to know

Smart buildings and cybersecurity: what you need to know
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Smart technologies are the lifeblood of modern living. We spend more time online than ever before, having become highly dependent on smart technologies and the benefits they bring to our personal and professional lives.

About the author

Sanjaya Ranasinghe, Technical Director at WiredScore.

Smart homes are inspirational, sustainable, cost-efficient and future-proof spaces designed to deliver exceptional levels of engagement and satisfaction to the users of today, and tomorrow. The latest smart technologies are all designed to generate, capture, and analyze data, which are then used to deliver more intuitive personalized experiences for their users. However, the more advanced the technology, the more data it captures and the more responsibilities it creates for the building owners.

Smart buildings and cybersecurity

Connectivity is now mandatory to any building's infrastructure, and as businesses plan to return as a disparate workforce, scattered across satellite offices, HQs, and homes, technology will become the ultimate enabler of business continuity post-pandemic.

However, all the benefits and advantages that smart, technologically forward buildings offer, also pose a risk. The greater digital surface area of smart buildings makes them vulnerable to cyber attacks, and even the smallest breach could quickly compromise entire networks and buildings.

With cybercrime up 600% since the start of the pandemic, and the sophistication of cybercriminals growing, it has never been more important for landlords to put their buildings’ cybersecurity on top of the agenda. Given that every smart building produces vast amounts of data, landlords need to be able to securely collect, analyze and make use of it without compromising security.

Security cameras, doorbells, nanny cams and even fridges are all possible entry points for hackers. One only has to look at how President Biden’s Peloton was deemed too risky to move into the White House to see how much of a threat they might pose. It is the digital equivalent of leaving a small window open downstairs. Everything linked to the network, whether smart lights, connected CCTV or even the elevator network needs to be subject to the same stringent security protocols and practices as databases containing confidential company data or mission-critical software. This means having the right protocols and standards in place to ensure the building’s systems and data are secure.

Building securely from the start

It is imperative that landlords put in place protocols to secure every aspect of their smart buildings from the start, incorporating cyber security into the design as early as possible. As building users expect a seamless, fully-connected in-building experience, any security solution has to complement, not restrict frictionless movement.

Prioritizing protocols and testing

An all-encompassing, top-down, cybersecurity strategy will help existing smart building functionalities to be delivered in an appropriate manner. This also provides a process for how the implementation of new smart functionalities must take into account appropriate cybersecurity measures.

Regular and proactive testing of cybersecurity systems can also pick out any immediate threats and ensures that the cybersecurity policy outlined is fit for purpose. The building systems can then operate in the ways intended, avoiding system downtime due to security breaches, and ensure that tenants’ systems and data are protected.

Whilst cybersecurity strategies alone can reduce cyber attacks, the risks and consequences of a system failure, through error or deliberate action must also be considered. For a building to be fully protected, the hardware, software, services and procedures must be looked at together as one.

Delivering a better, securer experience

An example of this being done well is 151 North Franklin, a 35-story office tower in Chicago owned by The John Buck Company. Conscious that tenants now expect their landlords to ensure the personal safety but also the security of their data, the team at 151 North Franklin designed a resilient, cyber-DNA that contains enterprise-level hardware, IoT collectors with built-in systems risk analysis and Department of Defense level security. This all integrates with a mobile and web-based Intelligent Building Platform to deliver an inspirational yet secure user experience.

Having a firm technological backbone enables landlords such as The John Buck Company to deliver user functionalities reliably, robustly and consistently. In order to reduce the vulnerability of cybersecurity attacks, implementing the cybersecurity policy in a structured manner will ensure that all areas of potential threat are addressed and appropriate mitigation measures are taken.

Creating safer spaces for the future

With the right technology at their fingertips, and the correct protocols in place, landlords can equip their offices for the modern, tech-loving workforce that has grown accustomed to the benefits of working in a home environment.

Furthermore, landlords that work with their tenants to take new approaches to connectivity can ensure their teams can stay secure and connected in a world post-pandemic. Using technology as a new incentive to bring the workforce back to the office whether full time or in a hybrid model, requires proper thought to go into implementing state-of-the-art technology without compromising on digital or personal safety.

Sanjaya Ranasinghe, Technical Director at WiredScore.