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Experts warn of cyber attacks on smart cities and buildings

Leading tech, legal and insurance experts shared strategies for ensuring the future viability and security of smart cities throughout the state.

During NAIOP New Jersey’s final installment of their “Future Proof Your Buildings” series, experts discussed how to keep up with rapid changes in digital infrastructure, connectivity and cyber security for commercial real estate.

“Cyber threats are real,” said Tom Brennan, a director at security services firm IOActive. “As our cities become ‘smarter’ and more reliant on technology for everything from lighting and traffic control to public transportation, security becomes super important. It is critical to have control of these assets once they are deployed.”

Among the biggest problems Brennan cited as a result of the “Smart City” evolution are wireless encryption issues, deploying new systems and devices without security testing, and a lack of communication and synchronization when responding to security incidents.

He added that huge surface areas that are not monitored or secured are ripe for attack. “Infiltration of traffic control and public transportation systems happens frequently, and simple bugs in a single device can cause complete chaos,” he said.

Brennan added that smart cities should develop coordinated response plans and patch vulnerabilities when they are detected to help secure against cyber attacks.

“Preparing for the worst, a timely response and the ability to fix security issues quickly are essential strategies for preventing data from being accessed and manipulated,” said Brennan.

Buildings with older systems can present their own unique challenges.

Eric Levine, co-chair Cyber Security and Data Privacy with Lindabury McCormick Estabrook & Cooper, believes liability is one of the fundamental risks facing building owners.

“A landlord will always be judged by whether or not they reasonably protected the tenant. If you provide the system it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s secure,” Levine said. “However, the more outward-facing points of entry and the friendlier the building is for a tenant, the more risk there is.”

Levine advises building owners to identify the types of tenants in the building, the information they have and what systems are in play.

Leasing language should be adapted to provide adequate protection. “You may have to ask high-risk tenants if they have cyber security policies and make sure they are auditing their systems every few years,” he said. “Consider including language regarding tenant use of vendors and requiring them to provide proof of security coverage.”

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