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Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities in the Construction Industry

Like every other business, Construction Companies are vulnerable to cyber attacks. As companies grow more reliant on information systems to store and transmit valuable data, the incentive for criminals to steal that data grows with it.

Never has cybersecurity been so critical, and the rate of attacks has grown consistently, year on year. A recent study estimates that unless individuals and businesses implement cybersecurity plans and procedures into their information systems, by 2023, cybercriminals will steal around 33 billion records.

Our experience in providing IT Services for Construction Companies has revealed to us that many in the construction industry are slow to adopt cybersecurity plans and procedures into their information systems, even though they acknowledge the growing threat. This makes them especially vulnerable to cyber attacks. 

This article will tackle how and why construction companies are at risk. We will also take a comprehensive look at the cyber threats that exist, and finally, cover some important steps you take to protect your data from cyber theft.

The Growing Reliance on Data

Modern construction companies rely on their digital data more than ever. Whether on site or in the cloud, construction companies store everything from engineering and architectural design plans to customer data for billing and accounting purposes. 

As a decision maker, what do you think would happen if this data all of a sudden went missing or was encrypted by a hacker equipped with ransomware? Would your business be able to function?  

Chances are, your reliance on data would be so substantial that you would be forced to start from scratch or, in the case of ransomware, pay the ransom demanded by the hacker. Are you willing to take that risk? Without a cybersecurity protections in place, it’s just like leaving your office doors unlocked at night. Do you leave your doors unlocked? Of course not!

Thankfully, there are cybersecurity standards and practices available now that can mitigate the risk of cyber attacks. While some large companies may have the IT staff to tackle the problem themselves, many small and medium-sized construction companies opt to outsource their cybersecurity to a Managed IT Service Provider. 

Let’s check out some of the threats that exist, and then we’ll get into ways to combat the threats. 

Types Of Cyber Threats 

Cyber attacks come in a variety of types. It’s important to understand how each one works so you can take the necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of experiencing one:

Phishing  

A form of social engineering, phishing is a fraudulent attempt to obtain information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers by disguising oneself as a trustworthy or credible source in electronic communication, such as email.  Phishing itself contains more subgroups:

  • Smishing – This is phishing via SMS. It has become very popular in recent years. The popularity has increased due to our reliance on the smartphone.
  • Vishing – Vishing is voice phishing. Most attempts are made to gain access to credit card information or passwords. The criminal will then use the information to steal money or information.
  • Spear Phishing – This is the most malicious of all the attacks. Spear phishing create a personalized attack on a victim for financial gain.

Ransomware

Ransomware has become popular over the last few years. In essence, ransomware is a malicious software executed by a cyber criminal that is ultimately designed to deny access to a file or set of files until a ransom has been paid. Ransomware can be one of the most dangerous forms of cyberattack. Ransomware attacks very rarely end happily, if at all. Ransomware attacks generally continue even if the ransom is paid. The criminal will quite often attempt to extort the victim for as long as humanly possible.

Computer Virus

Possibly the most well known of all cyberattacks is a computer virus. A virus is a piece of malicious code or program that is produced to alter the way a computer operates. The name virus is so-called due to the virus’s ability to spread from system to system. It spreads by:

  • Opening an email attachment;
  • Visiting an infected website;
  • Viewing an infected website advertisement;
  • Plugging in infected removable storage;
  • Clicking an infected EXE file.

Malware

When it comes to malware, the definition is extensive. The way malware operates will always vary from file to file. The list of types of malware is quite comprehensive; here are just a few of the examples:

  • Trojans – Software that masquerades as legitimate; in fact, the software is harboring something far more dangerous. 
  • Worms – Worms will generally infect an entire network of devices, either via the internet or even locally.
  • Adware – Adware is not always malicious by nature but is a form of aggressive advertising. The adware is usually a precursor that undermines your security software to give other malware an accessible doorway to your system.

These are only four of the most popular types of cyberattack, there are, in fact, far more. So paying attention to cybersecurity is imperative.

Construction Industry Vulnerabilities & Mitigating Risk

When discussing the implementation of cybersecurity plans into a company’s information systems, we often talk about securing a businesses end-points. An end-point is an entry point for a criminal to gain access to an information system. 

Construction companies are uniquely vulnerable in that their end-points are often more exposed due to the nature of their business. Temporary construction site locations and workers out in the field increase the risk to these end-points. For example, if a construction site manager has access to your network via their phone and this is lost or stolen on the job site, many companies don’t have the security systems in place to protect that end-point. 

Another problem companies face is the need to share information with subcontractors and other third parties. Sharing information without a plan to limit who has access to that data can be tough without implementing a plan to deal with it.

Mitigating Risk with End-Point Security

Endpoint security systems are designed to protect all the devices on your network from unauthorized access, viruses, and malware. These systems use a number of different approaches to limit access, and detect and remove malicious code, preventing it from ever reaching a device in the first place. Endpoint security provides protection in the following key areas:

Prevention with Proactive Defense

Your first line of defense should be the implementation of End-Point Detection and Response (EDR), which prevents malicious code from getting anywhere near your devices. EDR utilizes security controls which prevent the installation of scripts on your devices, as well as artificial intelligence to detect and respond to malware and other malicious software before they have a chance to deploy on your network.

Patch Management is also a very important form of prevention. More than just Windows updates, a patch management plan will ensure that all the software and tools you run on your network are updated and patched, plugging up any potential entry points that a hacker can exploit. 

Employee Cybersecurity Training

A cybersecurity awareness program for your team is the best way to combat phishing attacks. After all, 43% of data breaches were caused by internal actors. Of that 43%, 21% came from unintentional actions by employees. Unintentional actions include things like clicking on an email attachment or link they should have suspected as malicious. 

Cybersecurity awareness programs, such as KnowBe4, can train your employees to spot cyber threats so they don’t unintentionally harm your business. These programs feature turn key training courses, quizzes, and even allows you to test your employees’ readiness by sending them fake phishing emails. 

Balancing Convenience and Security: Enterprise File Sync-and-Share (EFSS) 

Construction companies have to be able to share information and documents between multiple locations, temporary job site offices, subcontractors and other third-parties. Inherently, this carries a number of security risks. 

So how do construction companies tow the fine line between security and business needs? Consider EFSS…

Enterprise File Sync-and-Share (EFSS) is an all in one file sharing solution to keep your information and document sharing secure. When it comes to cybersecurity, EFSS holds all the cards. EFSS takes pride in managing your data and keeping it out of the hands of cybercriminals.

EFSS offers a granular permission system; this system enables you to control who sees what and when they see it. This solution is fundamental within the construction industry. The construction industry, on the whole, is filled with temporary workers and contractors. These workers could without EFSS have access to whatever files may be sitting around, with the EFSS system this is not the case.

The EFSS system allows for monitoring of who is accessing what and when they accessed it. You will be able to manage user permissions at every level, and for added security there us also two-factor authentication (2FA)

2FA is a security protocol that is designed to protect your documents. You will be required to enter a code to access your data. This code will be generated via an app on your phone. If you lose your phone, you can, of course, access your account via a secondary password that you can access via security questions on a new device.

EFSS can also be tailored to involve an endpoint security plan (EPP.) An EPP is an integration of endpoint protection technologies such as antivirus, intrusion prevention, and data loss prevention. 

Outsourcing Your Cybersecurity

As a busy construction company, you will no doubt be swamped with operating your business. With all we’ve covered here, implementing a cybersecurity plan may seem like an impossible task. You may lack the time, knowledge, or staff to do it yourself. But you know the importance of cybersecurity and realize it’s essential for your construction company to mitigate risk in the digital age. That’s why many construction companies outsource their cyber security and technology management to a Managed IT Service Provider who specializes in IT Services for Construction & Engineering companies, like Total IT.

Contact us today at 972-383-7330 to learn how we can help integrate a cybersecurity plan for you as part of our Managed IT Services. You can also schedule a Free IT Consultation to discover which setup will work best for your company’s needs.