UK: Are Smart Buildings Security Smart?

Last Updated: 12 July 2016
Article by Tamsin Davies

As more offices become 'smart buildings' which are fit for tomorrow's city, those businesses who have opted to utilise technology must think beyond the presence of traditional security guards in reception areas to maintain the physical security of the building and the well-being of those inside it. The security of the technology systems in place within the building and the data stored electronically within the building must also be addressed.

Smart buildings have an important part to play in the ever changing nature of office space as businesses look to cut costs and increase efficiency wherever possible.  By utilising thousands of sensors integrated into buildings themselves to create a fully connected digital framework, every aspect of the building, from its microclimate to its filing system can be managed centrally by a building management system. The data protection issues surrounding smart buildings are well versed, but perhaps less well rehearsed and arguably of considerable concern to businesses utilising such technology is the cybersecurity risk posed by such systems.

Back in 2013 two Sydney based cybersecurity experts hacked Google's building management system. Whilst nothing malicious was intended during the Google hack, the same year a US state government facility fell victim to a real hack. Three years on and experts are concerned that it remains alarmingly easy to hack into a building with potentially dire consequences. Imagine a paperless office, with all employees access passwords changed by a hacker or the electricity supply overridden and off, making it impossible to work on a computer. Imagine a care home with the heating system overridden, making it far too hot in summer, or far too cold in winter to the detriment of the health of its residents. In the 2013 hack of a US state government facility, the building accessed was made to feel unusually warm. In this way, once a building has been hacked, it can effectively be taken hostage and held to ransom until demands are met.

When building management systems are integrated into the workplace (as is often the case), the system is no longer separate from a business' standard IT network. The standard IT network usually contains sensitive business information of one form or another. Where systems are integrated in this way, once access has been gained to one element of the system, the hacker will tend to have access to anything stored on the system. When millions of customer credit card details were stolen from US retailer Target, the source of the attack was eventually traced back to the heating system. Whilst the link between the two might seem slightly bizarre, the Target hack demonstrates only too clearly that where building management systems are linked to the IT network, a hack into the building management system can give access to extremely sensitive information with relative ease.

No physical security guard can prevent a cyber-attack in the same way in which a physical break in might be prevented, not least because very few security guards will come from an IT background and it is often difficult to detect a hack until it is too late.  Despite this, security is often not considered the most important criterion for businesses selecting a building management system. Instead, technology functionality is often prioritised over and above security. Anyone who works with a computer on a day to day basis knows only too well the frustrations of poor IT functionality, which is often the reason why functionality is prioritised. However, a day in the office where no one is able to log on due to mass password changes or a theft of sensitive information via a hack is likely to be far more damaging to a business than selecting a slightly slower or slightly temperamental, but more secure building management system. As such, priorities relating to selecting technology for smart buildings ought to be re-evaluated and security elevated to the utmost importance when it comes to selecting a building management system.

Cyber security experts recommend that smart building management systems are kept entirely separate from standard IT networks, for the simple reasons that it is virtually impossible to ensure that the codes behind building management systems are hacker-proof. Had Target kept their customer data on a different system to that which was used to manage their building, it might have been better protected when the heating system was infiltrated.  Not so long ago extracting sensitive commercial information through a heating system might have had a place in a sci-fi movie, but today it is the reality of the risks associated with the technology that we are utilising to continue to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

In the same way that an individual wouldn't leave their front door open when leaving home, businesses should take great care when adopting building management systems to ensure that their building remains as cybersecure as possible. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions