Can you Trust your Smart Building? – Understand the cyber security issues

Smart Buildings
In this digital age, what risks are posed to your tenants, staff, visitors and assets from vulnerabilities in Internet connected smart building systems and devices? Understand the cyber security issues associated with ‘smart’ building systems and why they are important to you.
Buildings are becoming increasingly connected and ‘Smart’ with the deployment of sensors, IoT networks, analytics and their integration with building management systems (BMS), building automation systems (BAS) and other systems (e.g. security, fire detection and alarms, occupancy, environmental, parking.
Smart Buildings can generate a deluge of data however, predictive analytics, machine learning and other branches of artificial intelligence (AI) allow managers and Smart Buildings Systems to ‘intelligently’ optimise the use of assets, operations and the consumption of resources. This optimisation offers potential benefits to users, owners and managers of buildings including:
  • Savings in energy and water usage and the resulting reduction in costs and carbon footprint
  • Improved working conditions, safety and security for occupants
  • Improved customer service levels
  • Visibility and management of occupancy levels
  • Optimisation of resources (physical, space and human)
  • Reduced maintenance costs


As well as the benefits, it is important to consider the risks of introducing new technology and devices. IT Cyber Security risks are not new, however, the proliferation of connected IoT devices introduces new system elements and components that can be exposed to possible attacks (attack surface) and mechanisms by which the attack can take place (attack vectors).
The risk to an organisation or individual through poor security practice could impact:
  • Reputation
  • Share price
  • Costs (operational, replacement, sales, legal, fines etc.)
  • Health & Safety

Threats to Smart Buildings

Threats to Smart Buildings can come from a number of difference sources or ‘actors’ including financially motivated cyber criminals, states and state-sponsored groups, hacktivists and malicious insiders (employees).
In 2012, Hackers exploited vulnerabilities in industrial heating systems [ref 1] which were connected to the internet, and then changed the temperature inside the buildings. They utilised a flaw in the building management software.
Security research company, Pen Test Partners, have demonstrated [ref 2] how poor installation by electricians and HVAC engineers who don’t understand security can lead to BMS controllers being exposed on the public internet and vulnerable to attacks that, for instance, could sabotage: HVAC devices to close offices  or cause life threatening issues at healthcare facilities. A simple search on Shodan [ref 3], the search engine for Internet-connected devices can reveal thousands of insecure BMS systems across the globe.
Bring your own IoT Device or Network or Shadow IoT – the use of unauthorised Internet of Things devices and networks poses a new level of threats for enterprises. A 2018 Infoblox report [ref 4] found that:
  • A third of enterprise companies have more than 1,000 shadow-IoT devices connected to their networks on a typical day
  • A quarter of US employees are unclear as to whether their organization has an IoT security policy
  • 20 percent of UK employees rarely or never follow security policy for personal and IoT devices
In 2017, it was revealed that criminals had managed to steal 10GB of data from a North American casino high-roller database via an internet connected thermometer in a lobby aquarium [ref 5]. The internet connected fish tank allowed it to be remotely monitored, automatically adjust temperature and salinity, and automate feedings.
Your building could become part of Botnet to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. In 2016, Mirai malware infected CCTV video cameras and digital video recorders and was used to launch a DDoS attack [ref 6] that caused a massive Internet outage affecting Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix. Mirai scours the Web for IoT devices protected by little more than factory-default usernames and passwords, and then enlists the devices in attacks that hurl junk traffic at an online target until it can no longer accommodate legitimate visitors or users

Cybersecurity Best Practice

It is not feasible to eliminate all risks from Smart Buildings. Protecting your investments requires a structured approach to implementing and maintaining security best practice, policies and procedures. This approach is well illustrated and documented by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” [ref 7] which:
“Provides a common language for understanding, managing, and expressing cybersecurity risk to internal and external stakeholders. It can be used to help identify and prioritize actions for reducing cybersecurity risk, and it is a tool for aligning policy, business, and technological approaches to managing that risk. It can be used to manage cybersecurity risk across entire organizations, or it can be focused on the delivery of critical services within an organization.”
The NIST Framework Core provides a set of activities to achieve specific cybersecurity outcomes, and references examples of guidance to achieve those outcomes. The main Core Functions are Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. The Functions should be performed concurrently and continuously to form an operational culture that addresses dynamic cybersecurity risk. Core activities include:
  • Management Governance
  • Risk Assessment
  • Threat Modelling
  • Security by Design (throughout the enterprise and system of systems) and leveraging Defence in Depth
  • Procurement (specifying security requirements for products)
  • Supply Chain processes (ensuring security is maintained throughout and at source)
  • Secure Implementation processes
  • Testing and Validation
  • Secure Maintenance and Lifecycle Management (including security software updates)
  • Training for system administrators and an enterprise monitoring plan to watch for suspicious events within the building network
  • Detection of Anomalies and Events
  • Continuous Security Monitoring
  • Incident response plan to effectively respond to cyber security incidents as they occur
  • Vulnerability disclosure
  • Recovery and Resilience processes and plans to restore services in the event of a security event
  • Physical access controls to provide wider visibility across the physical and electronic space
Security investments should be balanced against the effect of undesirable outcomes. Balancing should be grounded in a realistic assessment of the threats, the risks they pose and how they might prevent the system from fulfilling its intended functions. Costs should be evaluated, and a rational selection of implementation choices made to deliver an acceptable return on investment. In preparing for your risk assessment you might like to consider e.g.:
  • Have you identified your critical digital assets? Not all systems and data are created equal.
  • Have you identified which systems are critical for health and safety reasons and therefore must be fail-safe?
  • Do you have and maintain lists of all your assets (devices, software, and any sensitive information/data)? If so, do you know who has access to them and where the data resides?
  • Are you able to detect unusual behaviour/activity on your network/do you use real time monitoring solutions?
  • Would you know if a rogue device came on to the system?
  • If the building systems are attacked do you have processes and policies in place and are your staff familiar with these?
These and other questions are important for a Smart Building’s stakeholders to carefully weigh up throughout its lifecycle from design to decommissioning especially given the legal and health and safety requirements which relate to data protection and duty of care.

IoT SF Smart Buildings Working Group

The IoT Security Foundation [ref 8] recently published a White Paper ‘Can you Trust your Smart Building?’ [ref 9] and is seeking to encourage people from Smart Building stakeholder groups to engage with their Smart Buildings Work Group and provide input as they develop best practice security guidance in this area. To find out how you can be involved with the Smart Buildings Working Group, please contact:

Secure IoT 2019, Internet of Things Cybersecurity Conference

If you would like to:
  • Learn about the security issues, risks, threats and vulnerabilities associated with IoT systems and connected devices
  • Gain an understanding IoT security best practice
  • Meet leading cyber security experts and companies offering security products, solutions and services
I encourage you to come along to Secure IoT 2019, Internet of Things Cybersecurity conference, on 7th November at the Green Park Conference Centre, Reading, RG2 6GP, UK.

Buy Tickets

The following organisations, publications and/or standards have been used for the source of references in this document:
1. Fast Company, April 2013, “Cybercriminals Hack Into Factory”
2. Pen Test Partners, “Too cold to work? School closed? Sure your BMS hasn’t been hacked?”
3. Shodan, “search engine for Internet-connected devices”
4. Infoblox, May 2018, “Infoblox research finds explosion of personal and IoT devices on enterprise networks introduces immense security risk”
5. Forbes, July, 2017, ” Criminals Hacked A Fish Tank To Steal Data From A Casino
6. KrebsonSecurity, October 2016 “Hacked cameras, DVRs Powered Todays Massive Internet Outage:
7. National Institute of Standards and Technology, “Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity”
8. Internet of Things Security Foundation
9 Internet of Things Security Foundation, June 2019, “Can you trust your Smart Building?”

Internet of Things Cyber Security Conference – Talks Announced

Announcing the first set of talks for Secure IoT 2019, the 3rd annual Internet of Things Cyber Security conference, that will be held on 7th November at the Green Park Conference Centre, Reading, RG2 6GP. Speakers: Arm, AWS, Device Authority, IBM, NCC Group, Pen Test Partners, GSMA and Copper Horse.

At the Internet of Things Cyber Security conference, learn about the:

  • Cyber security issues, risks, threats and vulnerabilities associated with IoT systems and connected devices
  • Gain an understanding IoT security best practice
  • Meet Leading experts and companies offering security products, solutions and services.

For full details see:

Secure IoT 2019

To book tickets:
Secure IoT 2019 Tickets
Special discounted tickets are available for full time students and academics at a rate of £44.90 (incl. fees & VAT)


“IoT. Engineer securely, don’t add security”
Ivan Reedman – Executive Principal, Technical Lead, NCC Group

All too often vendors offer products and solutions to secure your IoT device. Unfortunately, in reality there is no silver bullet. For an IoT device to be secure, it must be engineered securely.

This talk will cover some basic principles of secure engineering using publically available references and models whilst also explain why and how to implement these principles.

“Systemic fraud in IoT: the fraud no one know about”
Tony Gee – Associate Partner, Pen Test Partners

Systemic issues in IoT are becoming more and more prevalent, with millions of devices compromised by poor security on the API, but there is a more sinister abuse of this attack as yet unknown.

This talk will discuss this attack and the ways an attacker can abuse the flaw for massive systemic fraud. We will also discuss the current mitigations in place and other mitigations organisations and individuals can put in place. This talk will be an eye opener to a brand new type of abuse of IoT!

“The PSA Security Model: Important Security Goals and How They Impact Security”
Marcus Streets – Principal Security Architect, Arm

Security is constantly changing and evolving. With regulations always on the horizon and new threats being identified, businesses need a strategy to protect against future security threats. The Platform Security Architecture (PSA) offers a framework for securing connected devices. It provides a step-by-step guide to building in the right level of device security, reducing risk around data reliability, and allowing businesses to innovate on new ideas to reap the benefits of digital transformation.

“IoT Security for Industrial and Smart Factory use cases”
Rob Dobson – Director, Device Authority
The presentation will take the audience through what some of the challenges are for securing industrial and Smart Factory deployments. Looking at several case study scenarios where customers have specific requirements around data security, privacy and how they can meet the Operation Technology (OT) needs for their businesses.

“Cybersecurity and the IoT”
Henrik Kiertzner, Principal Cybersecurity Consultant

The argument goes something like this – a huge number of nodes, all built by the lowest bidder and designed largely in jurisdictions where there is less-than-desirable attention paid to intellectual property rights, present a huge and appealing attack surface to the potential State actor aggressor, allowing for compromise of the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the devices and services they provide. IoT operators will need to find ways to maintain visibility of activity on their extended network and identify attacks and reconnaissance activity in order to move to mitigate impacts at the earliest possible time.

As with any modern issue, the key strands are people, process and technology. Where we are likely to fail is in process – the allocation of responsibility, the development of policy (and regulatory) architectures.

“Leveraging the SIM as a ‘Root of Trust’ to Secure IoT Applications”
Ian Smith, IoT Security Lead, GSMA

The GSMA has investigated how to leverage existing mobile operator assets to help secure IoT services – one of these key assets being the SIM. In his presentation, Ian Smith, IoT Security Lead at GSMA, will describe how cellular connected (GSM, LTE, NB-IoT) IoT devices can use the capabilities of the SIM to enhance the security of commonly used IoT security protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS).

Ian will also talk about the work the GSMA is undertaking to create a ‘common implementation guide’ for this capability – to the benefit of the IoT developer community.

“The Digital Security by Design Challenge”
Robin Kennedy – Cyber Security, Knowledge Transfer Network

Robin will outline one of the latest programmes to be announced under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) which, through enhancements to processor architecture and software, aims to make digital systems inherently less vulnerable

Other Speakers at the Internet of Things Cyber Security conference include:

  • Dr Andrew Jones – System Architect, Arm
  • Dave Walker – Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services
  • Adam Laurie – Global Lead Hardware Hacker, X-Force Red, IBM
  • Mark Neve – IoT Security Foundation Ambassador and Technical Lead at Copper Horse

How to hack an IoT device

An E&T investigation together with leading cyber-threat experts reveals how simple it is to hack Internet of Things (IoT) devices hooked up to the internet, exploring the implications of what this could mean for consumers and critical infrastructure in the UK.

See E&T article:

How to hack an IoT device

How to Hack a Smart Meter and Kill the Grid

Nick Hunn, WiFore: “I have always been concerned about the vulnerability of the British smart meters to hacking at the manufacturing stage. The reason for that concern is that these meters contain an OFF switch which allows power to be disconnected by the energy supplier. This is a convenience for them, as they no longer need to send someone round to gain access to a building. However, if it were ever hacked, the hackers could turn off millions of meters at the same time. That could be used to destroy the electricity grid.”

Nick gives a quick tutorial on how to hack a smart meter and kill the grid:

How to Hack a Smart Meter and Kill the Grid



Researchers link tools used in NotPetya and Ukraine grid hacks

New research provides evidence linking some of the most impactful cybersecurity incidents on record – the 2015 and 2016 attacks on the Ukrainian power grid and the 2017 NotPetya  malware outbreak – to the same set of hackers that Western governments say are sponsored by the Russian government. Researchers from cybersecurity company ESET say they have laid out the first concrete, public evidence of that link, citing a pattern of “backdoors” — or tools for remote access — used by the hackers.
See Cyberscoop Article:

Researchers link tools used in NotPetya and Ukraine grid hacks


The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies

The attack by Chinese spies reached almost 30 U.S. companies, including Amazon and Apple, by compromising America’s technology supply chain, according to extensive interviews with government and corporate sources – according to a Bloomberg Report.

Excerpts from this report:

“During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.”

“How the Hack Worked:”

1.  A Chinese military unit designed and manufactured microchips as small asa a sharpened pencil tip. Some of the chips were built to look like signal conditioning couplers, and they incorporated memory, networking capability, and sufficient processing power for an attack.

2. The microchips were inserted at Chinese factories that supplied Supermicro, one of the world’s biggest sellers of server motherboards.

3. The compromised motherboards were built into servers assembled by Supermicro.

4.  The sabotaged servers made their way inside data centers operated by dozens of companies.

5. When a server was installed and switched on, the microchip altered the operating system’s core so it could accept modifications. The chip could also contact computers controlled by the attackers in search of further instructions and code.

See also TechCrunch Article:

Chinese chip spying report shows the supply chain remains the ultimate weakness

Securing industrial IoT passwords

If the networked kit needs to work for 10 years, you need to think policy. Operations technology (OT) is the term given to all those environments in industry, transport, automotive, city and utilities that – before industrial IoT – had been largely isolated from the outside world and, thus, protected from intruders.

Brexit or no Brexit,  the UK is implementing an EU policy on the security of such systems via the Networks and Information Systems Directive, so securing OT is a necessity.

Privileged access management provider Osirium has partnered with aviation, rail and car cyber-security specialist Razor Secure to build and deliver a range of systems targeting industrial IoT applications including unattended operations, power and water plants, weather stations, manned and unmanned vehicles and other systems that could themselves be used as a gateway for “bad stuff” to hop onto a network.

The target market for this partnership is systems “designed well before deployment” and “required to operate for 10 years or more.”

The pair said Razor Secure’s machine learning algorithm would be used to hunt for process anomalies in endpoint security together with Osirium’s system administrator Privileged Access Management (PAM) for secure passwords, workflow and robotic process task automation.

See The Register Article

A botnet of smart irrigation systems can deplete a city’s water supply

Cyber security researchers warn of a potential distributed attack against urban water services that uses a botnet of smart irrigation systems that water simultaneously.

A botnet of smart irrigation systems can deplete a city’s water supply

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers analyzed and found vulnerabilities in a number of commercial smart irrigation systems, which enable attackers to remotely turn watering systems on and off at will. They tested three of the most widely sold smart irrigation systems: GreenIQ, BlueSpray, and RainMachine smart irrigation systems.

“By simultaneously applying a distributed attack that exploits such vulnerabilities, a botnet of 1,355 smart irrigation systems can empty an urban water tower in an hour and a botnet of 23,866 smart irrigation systems can empty flood water reservoir overnight,” Ben Nassi, a researcher at Cyber@BGU, says. “We have notified the companies to alert them of the security gaps so they can upgrade their smart system’s irrigation system’s firmware.”

UK’s Huawei handler dials back support for Chinese giant’s kit in critical infrastructure

A UK government-run oversight board has expressed misgivings about the security of telecoms kit from Chinese firm Huawei.

An annual report (PDF) from the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) concluded that “shortcomings in Huawei’s engineering processes have exposed new risks in the UK telecommunication networks and long-term challenges in mitigation and management”.

Huawei kit is widely used on BT’s network backbone so reduced confidence in equipment from the manufacturer has profound implications unless steps are taken to restore full confidence.

HCSEC warned: “Huawei’s processes continue to fall short of industry good practice and make it difficult to provide long term assurance.”