Data security for the smart building

CommScope Solutions Singapore Pte Ltd

By Jason Reasor, Director of Strategy and Technology for Enterprise Systems, CommScope
Sunday, 01 March, 2020



Data security for the smart building

According to a 2018 Forbes Insights survey, 60% of enterprises said their Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives have enabled them to expand or transform with new lines of business. Over the coming year, 94% anticipate a profit boost of at least five to 15% as a result of IoT.

A recent CommScope blog noted that it is the underlying infrastructure, as well as the connected devices, that define a smart building. Yet, enterprise deployment of IoT has become a defining characteristic of the smart building. The extensive network of edge-based IoT sensors is emblematic of an IT environment that uses the constant flow of operational data to improve future outcomes. Being able to support all the enterprise’s connected systems and devices with a converged low-voltage network provides additional ‘smart’ benefits.

The two sides of smart building infrastructure

For IT managers, a hyper-connected network is a double-edged sword. While it can vastly improve things like enterprise efficiency, productivity and growth opportunities, a hyper-connected network also poses increased risks to data security. Essentially, every connection becomes a back door into your network. Of course, this is hardly news, as the industry has long been aware of the security implications of having billions of additional devices connected to the network.

Less well known, however, is that as commercial building networks evolve — becoming more heavily integrated into all aspects of the enterprise — the physical layer becomes a more attractive target. Perhaps even more surprising is that, according to a 2015 study by IBM, 60% of all data security breaches in 2015 were carried out by insiders with either malicious or inadvertent intent. So, what steps can you take to lock down your physical layer?

Tips for a more secure smart infrastructure

The right connectivity strategy can go a long way towards protecting your data from on-site attacks.

  • Physical layer monitoring and detection: Automated infrastructure management (AIM) systems are a key weapon in fighting on-site unauthorised access. Using intelligent cabling, connectors and patch panels, they automatically document all changes and alert personnel to new and non-scheduled connections, such as an intruder plugging in a laptop to gain unauthorised access. Alternatively, the AIM system can integrate with an existing intrusion detection system to identify and communicate the exact location to the intrusion detection system. Some AIM systems also can be integrated with enterprise anti-virus software to identify rogue or infected devices by physical location — minimising the cost and damage during an attack.
  • Security monitoring and sensors: Enhanced connectivity like that found in intelligent buildings allows for networks of IP security cameras and occupancy sensors that help spot unauthorised intruders. With the right cabling infrastructure, these Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) devices can be placed just about anywhere they’re needed for optimal coverage.
  • Powered fibre/PoE cabling: In a powered fibre or powered Ethernet network, all connected devices draw their power from the switches, which are typically backed up by UPS batteries and generators. This centralised power structure is inherently more resilient and secure. In case of a main power failure, the AIM system and all connected security devices will continue to function.

The smartest approach is rarely the most complex

To get a better understanding of the issues and approaches to data security in the smart building, take a look at this brief video.

Ironically, some of the most effective means of securing advanced smart building networks involve practical and common-sense approaches. If you’re familiar with Occam’s Razor, this shouldn’t surprise you. Still, it underscores the value of being able to break down the most complex problems into their most basic components.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Shutter81

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