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Digital transformation is at the heart of every industry. There are no longer any industries that are immune to the rapid adoption of this movement. When we think of the construction industry, we may think back to an image of ironworkers sitting over a city and enjoying a lunch break on a construction beam. However, rapid digitalization has transformed the construction industry and will continue to drive change and encourage innovation. The traditional ways of conducting business brings about additional risks and challenges that the industry has to solve.

While it is impossible to address every contingency, we can examine what may be the most prominent cybersecurity risks a construction company should be wary of.

What Exactly is the Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry?

Construction was once carried out via messengers who delivered contracts, blueprints and architectural drawings to site foremen. Logistics were controlled via telephone conversations and, in many cases, via word of mouth between project managers and owners that continued all the way down to line workers who could recommend various tradesmen for a job. Now, not only have the gender roles been expanded, but the entire industry is maintained in the same way as all businesses – through electronic communications.

Personnel can be hired via electronic means. Contracts can be digitally signed. And thanks to modern tracking mechanisms, supplies can be tracked from the factory to the construction site with remarkable precision. All of these developments place construction entities along the same spectrum as any other modern business.

Reputation Loss

When a company faces a data breach, the fact that all the customers’ private information ends up in the hands of the attackers isn’t even the worst part. This is data that was under the care and custody of the victimized company.When a breach occurs, the perception of the affected clients (and prospective clients) is not one of sympathy. Rather, the viewpoint is that sensitive data isn’t safe with you. This can cause irreparable reputational damage to a business, driving customers to a competitor.

This means that maintaining a solid cybersecurity reputation has never been more critical. If your organization is in the unfortunate position of suffering a data breach, there are always things you can do to make things right:

  • Invest in a cybersecurity Security as a Service (SaaS) solution that works best for your company.
  • Take accountability.
  • Show your determination towards fixing the problem for the future.
  • Establish a reputation management plan.

Construction firms hold volumes of client data. This dictates that a high level of care must be taken to protect that data and that a strong cybersecurity program should be a priority at the company.

Downtime

Another damaging aspect of a data breach is unplanned business downtime. A significant risk to a construction company is business disruptions. Downtime is one of the most significant operational risks in construction, especially for companies that rely on their digital assets to run an efficient construction site. Long-term project delays can destroy a company through lost profits. Construction projects can be halted by inclement weather or worker safety violations. With digital transformation, the cybersecurity challenge for construction companies is preventing downtime in case of a cyberattack. Logistical coordination is now dependent upon a digital infrastructure. The risk imposed by a cybersecurity attack is that the entire digital infrastructure of a construction company can go down for hours if not days. 

Loss of Intellectual Property and Assets

Construction companies have intellectual property and digital assets that need immediate protection. Intellectual property is as valuable to a cyber attacker as it is to its creator. If that intellectual property is stolen and revealed prior to securing its legal rights, it can result in significant losses to the business. If the intellectual property or other asset was licensed for the company’s use but not owned by the company, a loss due to a cyberattack would result in equally damaging legal repercussions.

Since construction firms hold so many valuable assets, they should have a clear strategy for protecting the data they process. In spite of this, one study indicated that as many as 35% of all businesses fail to develop a protection plan for their digital assets.

Some examples of digital assets include:

  • Blueprints
  • Schematics
  • Custom designs
  • Patents

In the event of a breach, the loss of such intellectual assets could easily be viewed as irresponsible behavior, especially if it is shown that adequate cybersecurity measures were not deployed.

Inadequate Staff Education

As always, it is vital to address the human element regarding risks that have appeared since cybersecurity challenges in the construction industry started to intensify. If your staff is inadequately trained to handle cybersecurity attacks, your organization is vulnerable to risks.

It’s extremely important that you address cybersecurity risks with your employees. Since cloud and internet-driven technology represents a rapidly developing industry, cybersecurity can quickly become a blind spot for your staff unless they are offered adequate training.

Good security awareness training can turn your staff into allies who are always on the lookout for potential threats. Having a proactive attitude towards cybersecurity is a healthy business practice for companies that work with multiple digital assets and communicate with customers daily. With a collaborative approach, your employees can help you towards keeping your construction company safe from any suspicious activities that might lead to a breach.

The only way to reduce the risk of inadequate staff education is to put in the effort of training them properly.

There are proven ways of doing it:

  • Conduct a cybersecurity workshop.
  • Share stories about recent breaches and how they could have been prevented.
  • Organize a cybersecurity drill.

With the emergence of digital transformation, every construction company is facing risks that were previously non-existent in the industry. The best way to mitigate these risks is by raising awareness and addressing any security weaknesses in your construction company, giving you a solid chance of being a less attractive target to cybercriminals.


About the Author: Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager and writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library with a hot cup of coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.