How to Defend Construction Technology Against Cyberattacks

The construction industry is rapidly advancing from manual operations to digital, making it much more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Professionals in the sector must understand what they’re up against and improve their construction cybersecurity measures to protect their technology.

What Cyberattacks Target the Construction Industry?

Wire fraud, distributed denial-of-service, data breaches, ransomware and phishing are the most common cyberattacks targeting the industry. They become more frequent thanks to more digital tools. The number of construction cyberattacks grew by 50% between 2020 and 2021.

1.   Distributed Denial-of-Service

Distributed denial-of-service attacks use a botnet to overload a network with traffic, making it useless. Digital equipment is susceptible to this cyberattack since hackers can target it remotely. However, technological support can increase employee performance by over 30% on average, so many companies rely on it to speed up the construction process.

Many construction companies use robots with artificial intelligence to perform basic, tedious labor and free up employees’ time. DDoS attacks stop them from using their equipment. Usually, this is the goal — downtime in this sector is expensive, considering how projects need to stay on track.

2.   Wire Fraud

Cybercriminals specifically target construction companies for wire fraud because many have digitized payment operations and exclusively use wire transfers to send and receive money. While the convenience of online banking is amazing, it opens you up to cyberattacks.

Someone can create a fake email address to mimic an employee, the bank, a vendor or a client. From there, they only have to know when an upcoming transfer is and slip in a few relevant names or details to convince another person they’re legitimate. If they’re successful, they can redirect the money to themselves. 

3.   Data Breach

While data breaches are common in every industry, construction professionals often think they’re safe because they lack valuable information. In truth, bidding strategies, intellectual property, blueprints, tax details, payroll information and schematics are worth a lot.

Most companies don’t have data protection measures because there are few regulations. For instance, while hospitals must protect patient information and banks have to secure credit card details, construction workers have no guidance on how to store blueprints a certain way.

4.   Ransomware

Cybercriminals often target this industry with ransomware since there’s often little cybersecurity in construction. Downtime costs workers so much and messes up the timeline of other projects, so it’s a worthwhile endeavor for them.

Hackers typically ask for high ransoms because they know companies will either have to pay or lose out on precious contracts. This kind of attack has been on the rise in the construction industry for the past few years because it’s one of the most vulnerable to ransomware.

5.   Phishing

People pose as third-party software vendors, potential clients or even a bank to trick construction employees into clicking a malicious link. While phishing is standard across most sectors, it’s especially common in this one. Phishing prevention methods are an essential part of construction cybersecurity.

How Can Construction Companies Stay Secure?

Companies can stay secure by implementing data, infrastructure and end-user security measures. Considering construction is in the top five most targeted industries as of 2022, they should work to improve their cybersecurity.

1.   Use Authorization Methods

Adequate cybersecurity in construction involves authorization methods. Even if a hacker gets your login information, you can keep them from moving forward by using multifactor authentication. It sends a confirmation message or code to your phone, preventing anyone from logging in. Most companies use it, so you might already be familiar with it.

2.   Limit System and Data Access

Only some people need to access sensitive data or systems. Even though blueprints and employee details traditionally change hands often, it’s better to keep them secure. If only a few people can pull them up, interact with them or alter them, the company is much less likely to experience a data breach.

Many construction companies have remote workers or contractors that transport their laptops off-site. They may use public Wi-Fi or not follow company cybersecurity policy, putting the entire operation at risk. Limited data access is ideal since it prevents hackers from moving around and accessing more devices.

This method protects against insider threats, which is ideal for people doing business in competitive areas. Since only a few can view or interact with the company’s intellectual property, a spurned employee won’t be able to leak it to anyone else.

3.   Establish a Secure Phrase

Previously, employees only had to look for writing mistakes to spot phishing attempts. Now, tools like ChatGPT can quickly create a script with perfect grammar and spelling. Construction companies can defend themselves against these scams by establishing secure phrases.

Consider a scenario where a hacker poses as a bank employee to trick an employee into directing a transfer elsewhere. Since they wouldn’t know the secure phrase, it would immediately tip off the worker they were in the middle of a phishing attempt.

4.   Educate Employees

Cybercriminals often target employees, so educating them is essential for construction cybersecurity. Company owners should ensure staff knows of potential risks and how to defend against them. For example, they should be aware of what phishing looks like and what they should do if they think someone is targeting them.

Workers should learn the basics of cybersecurity in construction, including signs of a potential cyberattack and how to respond. An incident will look different than similar attacks on other industries, considering it typically targets equipment.

5.   Protect Old Hardware

Legacy hardware — outdated equipment still in use — often poses a cybersecurity risk since companies don’t patch security vulnerabilities once they stop supporting their old technology, leaving it open to hackers. These situations are typically public knowledge, so it will be easy for someone to find and exploit equipment weaknesses.

Construction companies can prevent this by manually patching everything or upgrading to modern equipment. These upgrades can be tedious, considering you must monitor for vulnerabilities and stick to a strict schedule. Still, it can save money.

The Importance of Construction Cybersecurity

Even though most construction workers think their industry isn’t the typical target of cybercriminals, they’re among the most at-risk. Unless they want to experience halted projects and system malfunctions, they must improve their cybersecurity methods.