How Building Operators Can Defend Themselves Against Cyber Threats and Boost Operational Efficiency

Every building depends on operational technology (OT) systems, such as elevators, lighting, fire safety, HVAC and more, to function. If any of these systems go down, it could be debilitating for business operations and building occupants.

Where once OT environments consisted of isolated, air-gapped networks that were not connected to the internet, today’s OT environments require greater connectivity to deliver the advantages of a fully digital experience.

And with this connectedness comes vulnerability. Bad actors know that, are determined and increasingly seeking to gain access to OT systems and wreak havoc.

You might not think of facilities as targets for cybercrime, but they are. The OT environment has become increasingly vulnerable to cybercrimes, with hackers targeting all types of buildings, from office plazas to hospitals to concert arenas.

Who are these attackers?

They come from every sector. Some are nation-state-sponsored pros; some are script kiddies who lack sophistication but have easy access to off-the-shelf tools and launch attacks from their parents’ basements. They’re all dangerous. And with the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI), they’re getting more so – even actors with zero coding experience can create and deploy malicious software produced by AI.

With OT-related cybercrime on the rise, robust cybersecurity measures are imperative to safeguard building tenants. This is why it’s crucial for building operators to implement cybersecurity solutions to defend against malware and other attacks that could disrupt or, worse, shut down a facility because the consequences can be devastating.

Imagine this scenario: Hackers gain control of a hospital’s HVAC system. They tamper with the temperature settings and turn the heat up in an operating room, making it impossible for doctors to deliver life-saving care and crippling to hospital operations.

Security purpose-built for the OT environment to help improve resiliency and operational efficiency

The bottom line is that today’s buildings can’t have any level of safety, sustainability or operational efficiency if they don’t have adequate cybersecurity in place. This means building operators need to be highly deliberative and plan their cyber strategy around their OT environments.

As a trusted solution provider and industry leader, Honeywell takes a holistic approach to OT cybersecurity, helping building operators mitigate potential damage to their finances, operations and reputation.

Honeywell building solutions, for instance, can uncover security weaknesses within a building’s OT environment by providing specific insights into system vulnerabilities and configuration issues, helping to improve overall resiliency.

Unlike traditional cybersecurity that’s geared toward IT networks, Honeywell’s solutions are purpose-built for the OT environment. They identify threats and anomalous behavior to help building operators manage and minimize cybersecurity risks at their facilities, enabling them to run their OT environments more securely, avoid disruptions and reduce safety threats.

This level of built-in security measures is also important from a compliance perspective. Companies with OT systems need help in obtaining the information they need to stay compliant with cybersecurity standards and regulations that apply to them. By integrating information from multiple OT data sources, building operators can gain actionable insights into a facility’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities and better manage their compliance strategy.

Here are three tips for building operators looking to enhance their operational efficiency by implementing stronger OT cybersecurity measures:

1. Build a common governance framework across your IT and OT teams. While cyber teams have gotten good at securing IT systems, OT cybersecurity is lagging because it requires specialized tools and knowledge. Organizations simply can’t use the tools they have in the IT space to manage their OT environment. That’s why bringing these two worlds together in a single governance model is key.

2. Understand your risk appetite. Whether you operate a small facility, a large complex, a hospital or a data center, understanding your risk is crucial. It’s important to note that being in a specific industry vertical doesn’t automatically equate to having the same risk as others in your vertical.

3. View OT cybersecurity as an enabler, not an expense. Cybersecurity enables everything from operational efficiency to sustainability to digital transformation. Without cybersecurity, none of those is possible.

The right solution for every building operator

Honeywell is committed to providing an end-to-end solution to building operators no matter where they are on their cybersecurity journey – whether you’re just starting by helping identify your biggest gaps with an assessment or further along in your cyber journey.

As building operators increase automation to gain competitive advantage, the threats to OT environments are rapidly growing, making it imperative for operators to stay a step ahead. They can do it – and do it with efficiency – if they have an OT cybersecurity partner with the right skills and experience.