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Construction industry ‘particularly vulnerable to cybercrime,’ Northbridge warns


September 12, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter


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Large and small construction contractors are vulnerable to cyber crime, with “smart” building devices and lucrative engineering drawings in particular presenting vulnerabilities, Northbridge Insurance warns.

“Major advancements in digital connectivity have left the construction industry particularly vulnerable to cybercrime,” Northbridge said in a recent post on its blog site. “Remotely accessible systems, like Building Information Modeling (BIM), project management software, and autonomous vehicles can create more opportunities” for cyber criminals to breach a construction firm’s cyber defenses, the Toronto-based insurer added.

“The digital revolution is a double-edged sword for construction companies,” Northbridge stated in the blog, New cyber risks in the construction industry, posted Sept. 7.

Among the assets “most targeted” by hackers are architectural and engineering drawings, financial information, personal information and files or account information that “could be held for ransom,” Northbridge warned.

Northbridge also suggested that “smart” devices in buildings can present security risks.

The inter-networking of physical devices – embedded with sensors, electronics and actuators – is defined by Cisco Systems Inc. as the Internet of Things, Cisco suggested earlier in a report.

“IoT devices, which include everything from cameras to thermostats to smart meters, are generally not built with security in mind,” San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco stated in its 2017 Midyear Cybersecurity Report, released in July. “Many of these devices lag well behind desktop security capabilities and have vulnerability issues that can take months or years to resolve.”

IoT devices “typically” have “little or no” reporting of common vulnerabilities and exploits, Cisco warned, adding they normally run on specialized architectures and have unpatched or outdated applications, such as Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP operating system.

Related: Cyber threat landscape growing, potential for emergence of destruction of service attacks: Cisco

“IoT devices cannot be accessed easily or at all by their direct owners, making it difficult to impossible to remediate when systems have been compromised,” Cisco warned.

“Some of the largest breaches to date began with the compromise and misuse of a single privileged user account,” Cisco added. “Gaining access to a privileged account can provide hackers with the virtual ‘keys to the kingdom’ and the ability to carry out widespread theft and inflict significant damage.”

In the report, Cisco said its threat researchers examined 4,410 privileged user accounts at 495 organizations. Cisco “found that six in every 100 end users per cloud platform have privileged user accounts” but in most organizations, “only two privileged users, on average, carry out most of the administrative tasks.”

Cisco “determined that organizations could remove ‘super admin’ privileges” from three in four admin accounts “little or no business impact,” Cisco added.

In its Sept. 7 blog post, Northbridge warned that cyber criminals “will target the account of a contractor or subcontractor in order to gain access to their clients.”

Northbridge added that nearly half of cyber attacks target small businesses.

“The fact is that many construction companies will fit the bill for cybercriminals – whether the goal is money, espionage, or fame – due to the depth, sensitivity, and value of the business’ data.”