Read on to discover why cybersecurity in the construction industry is a real concern and how construction firms can mitigate the threats.
The construction sector is not one many people associate with digital technology. However, the industry’s long-standing aversion to new technologies is fading, with construction firms embracing the same digital transformation sweeping virtually every sector. While this shift has many benefits, it also heightens concerns over information security and cybersecurity in the construction industry.
The Need for Cybersecurity in the Construction Industry
These concerns are grounded in real-world trends. Over 75% of construction and engineering firms report experiencing a cyberattack within the past year. The sector is quickly becoming a popular target for cybercriminals, and there are several reasons for that trend.
First, construction companies are valuable targets. Hacking into one of these firms could provide access to data like employee information, sensitive contracts, billing, and other financial information or critical infrastructure. As demand for construction projects rises, cybercriminals stand to make more money or cause more disruption by targeting this data.
The sector has also embraced new technologies faster than it’s adopted the necessary practices and tools to secure them. Digital technology has made construction sites safer, more efficient, and easier to manage, but they also introduce unique risks. Internet of Things (IoT) networks and cloud software now see widespread adoption across firms that aren’t accustomed to managing their vulnerabilities.
How to Reduce Cybersecurity Threats in Construction
The need for cybersecurity in the construction industry is pressing, but thankfully, this is an achievable goal. Here’s how construction firms and their partners can reduce and mitigate cybersecurity threats.
Train Employees on Cybersecurity Best Practices
One of the most important steps is to emphasize cybersecurity in employee training. Some experts estimate that 95% of cybersecurity issues stem from human error. In an industry as unaccustomed to cyber risks as construction, those errors may be more likely.
Given how prevalent these risks are, all employees should receive basic cybersecurity training. This education should cover best practices like strong password management, spotting phishing attempts, and why these steps matter. Periodic refresher training is also recommended, as it’s easy to forget these measures or to become complacent.
Employees with access to more sensitive systems and data should meet higher standards. Managers and others with higher-level access are more valuable targets, so their cybersecurity training should be more in-depth.
Address IoT Risks
Another important part of boosting cybersecurity in the construction industry is securing the IoT. Connected construction equipment and sensors are becoming more common, expanding firms’ attack surfaces and introducing lateral movement risks.
The first step in protecting these cyber-physical systems is network segmentation. Firms should run IoT devices on separate networks from systems with more sensitive data to prevent lateral movement. Similarly, they should disable any unused communication features to minimize potential entryways and control their attack surface.
Encrypting all IoT data transmissions will also help. As part of that, firms should only use devices that feature strong encryption. Changing default passwords and requiring multi-factor authentication (MFA) to access these devices is also important.
Finally, organizations should keep all firmware up to date, ideally using verification tools to authenticate over-the-air updates.
Review and Restrict Data Access
Next, construction and engineering firms should review their data and who has access to it. In an industry so reliant on contract labor and temporary partnerships, it’s easy to give too many parties access to too much. That, in turn, heightens data breach risks and makes it difficult to manage cybersecurity environments.
Businesses should use cloud-based tools to consolidate their resources and improve data visibility. Once they understand how data moves throughout their organization and between partners, they should restrict access. Given how many third parties may be involved in a single project, it’s best to follow the principle of least privilege.
Restricting data access also requires better authentication measures. Construction firms have several identification technologies available for this, but straightforward options like MFA are often some of the best, as their ease of use encourages adoption.
Develop Detailed Incident Response Plans
Cybersecurity in the construction industry should also avoid complacency. Regardless of the other steps a firm takes, they should never assume they’re 100% safe. Cyberattacks are far too common and 60% of small and medium businesses never recover after suffering from one. Having a recovery plan can prevent that unfortunate end.
Construction firms should create a detailed incident response plan to mitigate the impact of a breach. These plans should include having encrypted backups of sensitive data, communication strategies, containment solutions, and several contingency strategies for various scenarios. The more prepared firms are for a worst-case scenario, the less likely an attack is to cause unrecoverable damage.
It’s also important to rehearse this plan regularly. As cyber risks and mitigation strategies evolve, companies should also review and update their plans to stay safe.
Cybersecurity in the Construction Industry Must Improve
Right now, cybersecurity in the construction industry is far below where it should be. However, by following these steps, construction and engineering companies can mitigate the rising threats they face and stay secure.
As the construction sector implements more digital technologies, these measures will become increasingly crucial. Proper security will ensure companies can take full advantage of these innovations. Without it, they’ll be more hazardous than helpful.