Cybersecurity Challenges in a World of Smart Buildings-Use Cases

In this article, we will examine the features of a smart building and deeply analyze the issues related to cyber-threat areas and contingency solutions to stay secure, along with use cases.

Poonkuzhale K

Cybersecurity Challenges in a World of Smart Buildings-Use Cases

The new way of life

Historically, the safety of a building meant guarding its physical assets, but with the rise of "smart" structures, the field has expanded significantly. Most new buildings in the United States that are 100,000 square feet or greater are "smart buildings," with automated features regulating lighting, energy use, and video surveillance. The increasing rate of urbanization has prompted governments and builders to focus on improving city living. Cities have put in much work to prepare for the influx of new residents and use the latest technologies. By 2025, we expect 70–75 percent of the world's population to reside in metropolitan areas demanding smart cities and buildings.

Smart buildings are altering our living and working environments. New prospects come with new worries, like ensuring infrastructure, networks, and people are safe from cybercrime. Buildings may be susceptible to cyberattacks if they are not properly protected against the Internet of Things and growing connectivity. And hence, the building owners and operators must take a holistic approach to prevent the loss of confidential information and disruptions to the facility's operations.

Do you know

The smart building industry was $60 billion in 2021. The figure is predicted to hit $80 billion by 2022 and soar to $330 billion by 2029. Experts in the tech industry predict the market will grow at a CAGR of 22% or higher. More smart projects and the expansion of 5G technology are contributing to this boom.

What are Smart Buildings

Using technological advancements, "smart buildings" aim to improve the quality of life for their occupants. A smart building incorporates automation, predictive maintenance, and efficient use of space using interconnected systems through exchanged data. The smart building system constantly monitors the equipment in the building and collects data from them to share with the users. In return, users gain access to relevant data and have numerous avenues for shaping that data. They can adjust, set parameters, improve their environment, and even supervise the structure's upkeep. 


1. Measurement sensors

Smart buildings can be monitored, analyzed, and made better in real time by sending data from many different sources to a central management system. Capacity, energy use, supply, temperatures, etc., are only some of the variables that these sensors can track.

2. Anticipatory servicing

The monitoring sensors gather data, which is then analyzed by algorithms to best use the available resources. While the failures of a conventional building's control systems may go undiscovered because they are so imperceptible to the naked eye, modern facilities are equipped with control systems that allow for instant notification of incidents and the prevention of such issues in the future.

3. Eco-efficiency

Smart buildings are built to maximize efficiency and minimize their negative environmental effects.

4. Comforting

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems allow for precise regulation of indoor environmental factors like humidity, air quality, and temperature to maximize a building's livability and the comfort of its occupants.

5. Security

Integrating AI, ML, and IoT have led to self-management software that can operate complex security infrastructure.

Cybersecurity challenges faced by Smart buildings

Smart buildings emerged as a result of IoT development. A "smart building" is a structure that features cutting-edge technologies and is therefore deemed advanced and futuristic. These buildings are designed for data monitoring and analytics with sensors and automated features built right in. Smart buildings are becoming more popular as businesses see how they can boost productivity, save money on utilities, and make their spaces more pleasant for employees while making them safer and more environmentally friendly.

The rising reliance on technology and electronic gadgets in smart buildings makes them more susceptible to hacks, but they have also made labor easier and more efficient. Any operational device on the network could be vulnerable to assault if a hacker gains access to even one of them. There are opportunities for Internet of Things (IoT) attacks throughout the planning and construction phases of a building and in any smart or networked additions to an existing structure. 

Let's take a closer look at the potential weak points in smart buildings that hackers could exploit.

Areas of Cyber-threats

Cyberattacks via Building Automation System (BAS)

The BAS is a major weak point for smart buildings since it regulates essential systems, including HVAC, lighting, security, and ventilation. A smart building has networked lighting, HVAC, and elevator systems, but the security mechanisms typically need to be improved. It's only sometimes the case that data is encrypted in the HVAC system infrastructure.

Given the 2013 major data breach at Target's retail chain caused by hackers penetrating its HVAC network, it's crucial to plug any possible hole. Businesses located in smart buildings are at risk due to the increased attack surface caused by the proliferation of potential access points for cybercriminals.

Hacking Internet of Things

Connectivity between a wide range of Internet of Things devices is crucial for the smooth operation of smart buildings. One vulnerable Internet of Things (IoT) device is that it allows hackers to gain access, and it may be months before any malware they've introduced is discovered. Attackers can easily find and exploit the 57% of IoT devices susceptible to medium or high-intensity attacks. Thus businesses must take precautions against data breaches by ensuring the security of every connected device in a smart building. Commonplace gadgets now online are called "IoT devices," and you may find some in your own house. Cameras installed in doorbells, energy monitors, activity trackers, audio system components, and automobiles are all examples of Internet of Things devices.

Security gaps created by users

Smart buildings benefit from as much independence from human intervention as possible. Users can often unintentionally expose systems to the greatest risk. While it's true that nobody's perfect, one security breach is all it takes to get access to a network and begin mining for sensitive information.

Accidental malware downloads or clicks and reusing old passwords are examples of human mistakes in this context. Some of the most widely used passwords include 123456, and 45% of consumers reuse the password for their primary email account across multiple sites.

Many workers today use their own devices to perform their jobs; if they aren't connected to a secure network, those devices could be at risk. When a smart building's infrastructure is compromised, it affects everyone who works there.

Utilizing Outdated Software

The first half of 2019 saw malicious assaults on 37% of computers used to handle smart building automation systems, according to research from Kaspersky. It is mandatory to update all devices and touchpoints in a smart building to the most recent versions of their respective operating systems. Cybercriminals can easily breach the network security of a smart building if its software is outdated. Most malware is designed to infect devices running obsolete operating software versions to exploit security flaws that have since been patched.

Ignoring the advice to install a new update when one becomes available is a recipe for disaster. In addition to increasing the building's susceptibility to cyberattacks, incompatible software updates can make the various equipment and sensors required for smart building operation less useful.

Ways to Control Cyber-threats

Companies must be prepared to comprehend and execute the newest cybersecurity requirements in smart building goods, systems, and processes as the danger of cyberattacks increases and regulators push for new regulatory frameworks. With advanced technologies in easy reach, it is possible to secure the smart building from the above threats.

  • Constantly monitoring and updating your systems to ever-evolving cybersecurity best practices is the most effective way to ensure a connected structure and supply chain.
  • Check the security architecture and look for holes to ensure the BAS systems are built and installed by qualified professionals and keep upgrading the software. Use only trustworthy BAS standards for all future and ongoing construction projects.
  • Change passwords frequently. Consider modifying the default login credentials and implementing other robust password security measures (such as requiring lengthy, complex passwords with at least 14 characters) and using a password storage vault.
  • Set up tools for network tracking, recording, notifying, and reacting automatically.
  • Ensure that security procedures have been independently evaluated and tested, and look into any potential cyber security holes in current and upcoming technology.
  • Think about enforcing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for network access and reducing the number of privileged accounts (including those used for vendor and third-party management).
  • Group the building's external connections to the Internet, business networks, and other external resources, and the building's internal connections to the building automation systems into distinct categories. Determine if a link is necessary, and implement security measures like firewalls, encryption, and access control.
  • Make it a policy to evaluate and test or simulate incident response plans at least once a year and to provide appropriate training to relevant staff.
  • Formulate an effective strategy for handling unexpected crises by considering the nature of the services offered by the building's proprietor or the tenants.
  • Regularly performing a security analysis of the system's most important IoT components (controllers and control devices) will be very useful. 

Use-cases of Smart Building


Most working individuals spend their days in offices, inhibiting the company's possibilities for sustainable growth. This is why smart building technologies are most frequently implemented in workplaces. Sensors and cloud-based computing from the Internet of Things are linked together to form smart building systems. They help organizations save on operation expenses, eliminate waste, and properly manage spaces. 


The medical field is rapidly adopting cutting-edge smart technology. Diagnostics backed by AI, big healthcare data, and other technologically driven patient care procedures are all standard at today's hospitals. A smart hospital system can integrate these elements and bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds.

Data Centre

Smart data centers monitor and visualize data intelligently.

They utilize security management systems to guard the premises' perimeter, detect intrusions, and track visitors, as well as smart power supply systems, which help to generate electricity supply in the event of a blackout. Other applications include smoke-detecting sensors and automated procedures like risk management, ID verification, and biometric authorization.

Life Science facilities

Cleanrooms, labs, and other essential storage areas can benefit from the smart solutions developed specifically for life science facilities, designed to mitigate risks like biosafety threats and intellectual property theft. Surveillance via cutting-edge cameras, climate regulation, fire detection and suppression, and data-sharing dashboards are the possible uses.

Modern structures are not only intended to give shelter. Smart buildings are advanced structures with an integrated network that improve the quality of daily living and work while also lowering the environmental effect. The technology behind smart buildings today has many potential uses, along with hazards and vulnerabilities that cannot be ignored. Cybercriminals can take advantage of the interconnected systems in a special way because a single point of entry is all they need to access the entire network. Therefore, efficient and preventative planning, testing, verifying, and securing all components and systems from cyber threats can achieve a more secure smart building.

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