Automation, Controls

Building safety – on all levels

Building engineers must keep cybersecurity top-of-mind when specifying products and setting up building automation and control systems.
By Amara Rozgus April 17, 2019
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Back in 2013, Edward Snowden was in headlines around the world. Some will argue that the files he stole from the U.S. government were treasonous, and made the United States – and in some cases, other countries – even more vulnerable to cyberattack. Others will argue that citizens have the right to know what’s going on, know what personal data is being shared with whom and understand whether any portion of the data collected can be maliciously used by others.

While arguments raged on both sides, one thing is certain: No individual or company is safe from some sort of data breach. Apart from the Snowden revelations, individual identity theft has become rampant, major hotel guest databases have been breached, top level retail stores and transportation apps have been hacked and election meddling by foreign governments is a frightening reality.

Though it sounds like a thriller novel or action-packed movie, cybersecurity attacks on buildings, cities and utilities are a real consideration for facility managers and information technology experts. While power loss on one floor of an office building would be considered a nuisance, a shutdown of an entire hospital campus could be disastrous.

The Stuxnet worm, which came to light some time in 2010, is an example of this type of service disruption. While it was meant to attack Iran’s nuclear power program, it also had the ability to cause service disruption of power grids, water supplies and public transportation systems. Targeted at one company’s control system, Stuxnet reminded building owners, automation and control specialists and the general public just how vulnerable a system could be.

Security used to come in very simple forms: doors, locks, barricades and such. Now intrusion detection is much more sophisticated, and includes the physical options of motion sensors, alarms, biometric door locks and facial recognition.

Passwords were the foundation of online security for many electronic systems, but now it’s only the most basic line of defense. Cybersecurity comes in so many forms – and it changes quickly as a new product or system is released. For example, on page 59, the 2019 Product of the Year finalists include software, security, controls, protection and smart technologies. Every manufacturer is working hard to ensure its products cannot be compromised by external sources – electronically penetrated or hacked, in other words.

Keeping our buildings safe is important to everyone, and relying on IT, controls and programming experts is paramount.


Amara Rozgus
Author Bio: Amara is the Editor-in-Chief/Content Strategy Leader for Consulting-Specifying Engineer.