‘Oman’s smart building industry needs cohesive ecosystem to safeguard against cyber risks’
As smart cities become a reality in the GCC, smart buildings are increasingly becoming more prevalent because of the optimised efficiency and convenience they offer, for both operators and tenants.
However, wider adoption of smart building technology should stimulate corporations and governments to ensure that they are adequately prepared for potential cyber risks, stated in a comprehensive report titled ‘Cybersmart Buildings’ co-authored by Booz Allen Hamilton and Johnson Controls.
Smart buildings operate as a link between the physical and digital world and leverage data to optimise operations and lower facility costs, while increasing safety and sustainability. However, unlike cyber risks in other industries, smart buildings are not just susceptible to data breaches and IT interference, they are also vulnerable to disruptions that could negatively impact several aspects of daily life.
Cyberthreat actors have demonstrated capability and intent in hacking building automation systems, safety systems, and critical environmental technology. Smart system network designs must be secured, if integrated with IT systems and networks, to make sure internal systems are not exposed to new threat vectors from building automation systems. For example, hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems as the entry point into a corporate network, or hack into IoT devices to breach the privacy of residents.
The Information Technology Authority of Oman and the Oman Broadband Company are developing a 2030 strategy to build smart city infrastructure that will provide enhanced security, eGovernment capabilities, and technology driven municipal services and building management.
Teejan Investment and Development has also announced that the Taj Office Building project, which will be completed by 2020, will be outfitted with a range of smart building applications including smart lighting, air conditioning systems and electronic control systems that can be accessed through a smart- phone app. With wider adoption of such smart technologies across the sultanate, the number of sensors and devices talking to one another increases.
Therefore, as automated systems control more of our environment, it is no longer enough for a building to be smart – it must now be cybersmart. This entails a blended approach of risk-based planning, technology, working with the right partners, assessing old and new infrastructure, processes and capabil- ities across the building lifecycle, and people skills.
Dr Adham Sleiman, vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton says, “There is tremendous business value in embracing building automation, including their cost savings, energy efficiency and the security and convenience they offer to their dwellers. Smart buildings are an essential component of a smart city, pushing the power of digital optimisation into the offices and homes. As such, it is of paramount importance to protect smart building investments for all stakeholders involved from developers to end-users.”
Wayne Loveless, principal, Booz Allen Hamilton says, “As the world evolves to smart neighbourhoods and smart cities, potential challenges around cyber security will be inevitable. It is important to have a plan and be prepared to continually evolve. Cybersecurity isn’t a tax on the business, it is not simply an IT issue, and it certainly shouldn’t be a scare tactic. It is a business enabler and, when executed effectively, it is about insuring your investment.”
Cybersecurity isn’t a tax on business; not simply an IT issue. It is a business enabler