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Everything to Know about Cyber Security Risk

The meaning of Cyber Security, causes and how to mitigate Cyber Security risks in construction.

What are Cyber Security Issues?

Cyber Security Issues in construction refer to vulnerabilities and threats related to the digital aspects of construction operations. This includes data breaches, unauthorized access to digital systems, and cyber-attacks on software used for project management, design, and communication of a Capital Project. Such issues can lead to loss of sensitive information, financial theft, and disruption of construction activities.

What does Cyber Security Risk mean?

'Cyber Security Issues' mean the potential risks and vulnerabilities in a construction firm’s IT infrastructure that could be exploited by malicious entities. This can significantly impact the Project Owner's integrity, confidentiality of proprietary information, and the privacy of data.

Cyber Security Issues Example

An example of cyber security issues in construction is a hacking incident to retrieve construction drawings. Construction projects have blue prints, specifications and information on what can be critical top secret facilties and infrastructure. Similarly, a ransomware attack on a construction company’s project management software, encrypting critical project data and demanding a ransom for decryption. Such an attack can halt project progress and lead to significant financial and reputational damage.

Cybercriminals Hit Naval Shipyard Austal USA. The ship builder held multiple U.S. Navy orders, including a supply contract to build section modules for new nuclear submarines.

The History of Cyber Security Issues

As construction companies have increasingly integrated technology into their operations, the sector has become a target for cyber threats. Historically, the construction industry has lagged behind others in adopting advanced cyber security measures, making it more susceptible to cyber-attacks. However, best in class operators like General Contractors and Project Management Consultants must protect their process know-how if they want to preserve their innovation investment advantage over their competitors.

Causes of Cyber Security Issues

Cyber security issues can arise from various sources:

  • Phishing attacks: Attempts to steal sensitive information through deceptive emails or communications.
  • Weak cybersecurity protocols: Insufficient security measures that fail to protect data and systems adequately.
  • Insider threats: Malicious actions by employees or contractors who have access to company systems.
  • Outdated software: Use of software that is not regularly updated to protect against known vulnerabilities.

Likelihood of Cyber Security Issues

The likelihood of cyber security issues is increasingly high as the reliance on digital tools in the construction industry grows. With more data being digitized, the potential for cyber-attacks also increases, making robust cyber security measures essential. General Contractors and consultants working on highly sensitive government or other critical capital and infrastructure projects will content with a much higher likelihood of attack, if the information they posess (required to construct an asset) is valuable in the hands of an attacker.

Consequence / Impact of Cyber Security Issues

The impact of cyber security breaches can be devastating, including the loss of competitive edge through leaked project data, financial losses due to theft or ransom payments, legal consequences for failing to protect client data, and damage to the company’s reputation. For these reasons, the impact rating assigned to Cyber security risks is severe.

Cyber Security in Construction Contracts

Cyber Security clauses in construction contracts becoming more frequent to specify measures and responsibilities related to digital security:

  • Data Sovereignty: Most Project Owners request data stored in country, not overseas.
  • Data Handling and Protection: Clauses specifying how data should be handled and protected by the contractor.
  • Notification of Breaches: Requirements for notifying parties involved in the contract in the event of a security breach.
  • Cyber Security Standards Compliance: Obligations to comply with national and international cyber security standards.
  • Audit Rights: The right for clients to audit the contractor’s cyber security practices.

Mitigations and Treatments for Cyber Security Risk

Effective mitigation and treatment strategies for cyber security risk include:

  • Reliable and secure systems: Use top sofware and digital providers like Microsoft and Azure.
  • Sanitise Project Data: Use construction documentation and blue prints that is sanitised, reducing the consequence if the information is leaked.
  • Regular Software Updates: Ensuring that all software is up-to-date with the latest security patches.
  • Employee Training: Regular training for employees on cyber security best practices and threat awareness.
  • Strong Access Controls: Implementing robust access controls and authentication procedures to limit access to sensitive data and systems.
  • Cyber Security Insurance: Obtaining cyber security insurance to cover potential financial losses from cyber incidents.

Risk Management and Reporting of Cyber Security Risk

As we've seen above, there are alot of considerations when it comes to Risk Management. Implementing Risk Management and Reporting controls will make managing this risk easy, and ensure success of your Capital Project.

  1. Risk Management Plan: Download a free Risk Management Plan Template and put a Risk Management process in place.
  2. Risk Register: Download a manual Risk Register Template or use an automated Risk Register solution to track all risks, causes, consquences and mitigations.
  3. Reporting: Create automated Risk Reports, Project Status Reports or Dashboards for communicating with stakeholders. If you need a free Report Template, you can find some examples here.
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