‘Oman’s smart build­ing in­dus­try needs co­he­sive ecosystem to safe­guard against cy­ber risks’

Muscat Daily - - NATION -

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

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