Technology

Ensuring Secure Remote Access for Smart Buildings

Smart buildings are powerful but not infallible when it comes to cybersecurity. Sometimes, the smarter the building, the bigger the cyber risk.
By Emily Newton
May 13, 2024
Topics
Technology

Smart buildings are rising—and changing how businesses and people interact with their physical spaces. They offer more efficiency and convenience, making cities more livable and sustainable.

However, smart-building technology introduces vulnerabilities that expose them to cyber threats. Addressing these risks with smart-building security is key to protecting and maximizing the benefits of this innovative infrastructure.

WHAT IS SMART-BUILDING SECURITY?

The increased integration of technology in building management has led to the emergence of smart buildings. These use advanced automation systems to control various functions, such as:

  • Heating
  • Ventilation systems
  • Air conditioning
  • Lighting
  • Security systems

These structures are efficient and sustainable, and can adapt to the needs of those who use them. Yet, as the complexity of these systems grows, so does the need for strong security systems.

Smart-building security involves protecting the building’s data and operational infrastructure. Doing so allows building managers and authorized personnel to monitor and control building systems remotely. This capability allows for continuous operations, safeguarding technology assets from potential breaches.

Smart buildings’ systems are often complex, making the stakes even higher. Therefore, construction managers must ensure remote access to these smart systems is resilient while maintaining accessibility.

CHALLENGES OF BUILDING SMART

Implementing smart-building technologies introduces several security challenges. As structures become interconnected through advanced technologies, they become more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Approximately 35% of Fortinet’s survey respondents stated cybersecurity was one of their top three concerns when managing connected buildings.

Smart buildings have vulnerabilities from various sources, including unsecured endpoints, network breaches and insufficient authentication processes. One reason these weaknesses exist is the integration of new technologies with existing systems, which can create potential entry points for cyber threats. Older systems lack security features that withstand modern attacks.

Additionally, the more interconnected the systems are, the greater the risk of a single breach affecting multiple parts of the building’s operations. The various technologies smart buildings use include:

  • Internet of Things sensors and devices: IoT devices monitor multiple parameters within the building, including temperature and occupancy levels. This allows for real-time adjustments that enhance energy efficiency.
  • 3D video sensors: These sensors provide high-resolution 3D images of spaces, allowing for remote monitoring and surveillance of buildings. Indoor and outdoor devices can be mounted at 19.68 feet, with some specialty devices reaching 29.5 feet.
  • Building automation system: These systems centralize control of the building’s HVAC, lighting and other systems for energy efficiency and operational control.
  • Energy management system: EMS optimizes energy consumption, reducing costs and environmental impact while ensuring the systems are only active when necessary.

TECH FOR SECURE REMOTE ACCESS

Remote access technologies are crucial tools that allow building managers to interact with and control building systems from remote locations. Organizations developed these technologies to connect people to the building from any location securely.

Virtual Private Networks

Virtual private networks provide a secure tunnel for data transmitted between a remote user and the building’s network. The tunnel is encrypted, protecting data from unauthorized interception as it travels across the internet. This method is particularly effective for securely accessing building management systems from any location.

Cloud-Based Access

Cloud-based systems host the structure’s operational data and controls on remote servers that a service provider manages. Users access these services via the internet using secure login protocols, ensuring management can occur from any device with internet access. This method eliminates the need for local data handling and infrastructure maintenance, streamlining remote access.

Direct Connections

Direct connections use dedicated lines or proprietary networks to connect a remote device to a building’s systems. This setup minimizes potential points of entry for cyber threats and reduces latency. A stable and secure connection results, making it ideal for system operations requiring real-time responsiveness.

BEST PRACTICES

Professionals should implement several best practices to guarantee smart building security works effectively and thoroughly.

Securing the Network

The basis of smart building security is a network infrastructure strong enough to protect operational data. Start by dividing the structure’s network into separate segments to limit the spread of potential cyber threats and simplify management. Each segment can have its own security protocols and isolate the building’s critical systems from less secure networks.

In addition to network segmentation, firewalls can act as a barrier between the building’s network and external threats. Ensure there’s a proper configuration of firewalls to filter out unauthorized access while allowing necessary communications.

Authenticate and Authorize

Managing who can access various systems in a smart building is vital to maintaining security. Implement authentication and authorization mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication and role-based access control.

MFA requires users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to sensitive systems. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access due to compromised credentials.

RBAC assigns access rights based on the user’s role within the system. This ensures individuals have access only to the information and systems necessary to them, minimizing potential internal threats.

Encrypt and Protect

Protecting smart-building systems' data is critical to preventing breaches and ensuring privacy. Use strong encryption standards to protect data at rest and in transit. Doing so prevents unauthorized users from reading the data even if they manage to intercept it.

Regular audits are also crucial to assessing the security status of the building’s system. These enable vulnerability identification before cyber attackers can exploit them.

Lastly, it’s critical to keep all systems up to date. As new security patches and software updates emerge, it’s essential to install them to maintain smart-building security.

DEPLOYING SECURE REMOTE ACCESS

Successful implementation of secure remote access begins with a meticulous plan. This will involve outlining the security needs of the building, following the selection of the right technology. Knowledgeable stakeholders should collaborate to create a deployment plan that includes:

  • Risk assessments
  • Clear timelines
  • Defined milestones for installation and testing

When choosing the right technology, considerations should include scalability, ease of system integration and security standards. Once the stakeholders decide on the technology, deployment should proceed in phases. This allows for troubleshooting and adjustments before full-scale implementation. It also minimizes disruptions, providing room for training and ensuring users are comfortable with the technology.

After the remote access systems are in place, continuous monitoring is essential to ensure they operate securely and efficiently. Use monitoring tools to detect unusual activities. These tools should be capable of sending instant alerts to security personnel to enable swift responses.

PROTECTING SMART BUILDINGS

Secure remote access is essential for the construction and management of smart buildings. By using the best practices and strategically deploying smart building security, professionals can safeguard their infrastructures against cyber threats while maintaining operational efficiency.

However, the most proactive approach is to stay informed. Smart-building technologies and cyber threats constantly evolve, so staying ahead is key to remaining secure.

by Emily Newton
Emily Newton has more than four years’ experience writing industrial topics for the construction, manufacturing and supply chain industries.

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