Guidance on cyber-safe green buildings

IT Firm calls for stronger cyber security for green buildings in its new guide.

IT cyber security specialist OryxAlign is calling for the integration of stronger cyber security measures in green buildings in its latest guide, The Green Buildings Guide, 2024: Achieving Green, Healthy & Cyber Secure Buildings. The guide highlights the essential role of technology in achieving environmental endorsements for buildings, emphasising the significance of cyber security due to the increasing integration of Internet of Things (IoT) and Operational Technology (OT) devices.

Aimed at commercial real estate managers, construction experts and facilities managers, the guide first focuses on green and healthy building certification, detailing market trends, certification processes and the benefits of achieving such certifications for market value, operational costs and occupant health. It then moves onto discuss the technology involved in achieving this, such as monitoring and control systems, smart meters and HVAC systems and how to keep these cyber-secure.

According to a YouGov survey commissioned by OryxAlign, 86 per cent of tenants consider green buildings to be important or very important. This high demand for green buildings has triggered a rapid growth of rating schemes such as LEED, BREEAM and WELL.

The guide underscores the necessity of integrating smart technologies to achieve and maintain these green building certifications and support various sustainability goals, including energy efficiency and air quality. These technologies include IoT devices such as smart thermostats and OT devices such as fire alarm control panels, both of which are directly or indirectly connected to the internet – and therefore, accessible by hackers.

Although integrating smart technology is essential to making a building green and healthy, it should be noted that, according to SonicWall, between 2021 and 2022 there was an 87 per cent increase in global IoT attacks.

“Smart devices are essential in driving forward sustainability within buildings,” explained Peter Schwartz, Senior Technology Consultant at OryxAlign. “But these endpoints are connected to a network and can communicate with other networked devices or systems, making them potential targets for cyber threats that can quickly spread throughout a building.”

OryxAlign’s guide provides insights into potential threats and cyber security challenges, offering best practices such as risk assessment, endpoint hardening and network segmentation. These are aligned with standards from the US National

Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Center for Internet Security (CIS). This information is crucial for stakeholders in the construction and management of green buildings, as it highlights the importance of incorporating robust cyber security measures alongside the integration of smart technologies to ensure the safety, privacy and operational integrity of green buildings.

"Our guide delves into the critical technologies for sustainable, secure buildings, outlining specific cybersecurity risks like IoT and OT vulnerabilities, and detailing the least secure devices—security cameras, smart thermostats and access control systems,” added Schwartz. “It underscores the necessity of practices like network segmentation, multi-factor authentication, and regular updates to mitigate these threats.”

The YouGov survey comprised 300 respondents from the UK. These respondents were senior decision makers at tenant organisations, construction companies or IT departments from various sectors such as manufacturing, construction, financial services, IT and telecoms, medical and health services and education. 44 per cent of responders were from organisations with more than 1,000 employees.

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