By Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine
Contractor accounting software, IoT devices, construction management programs and many more digital tools are bringing the construction industry into the future, but they are also creating cybersecurity vulnerabilities. What security risks does software create, and how can companies resolve these risks?
Rising Cyber Vulnerabilities in Construction
Cybersecurity is a top concern in every industry, and construction is no exception. Companies may not see themselves as appealing targets for hackers. After all, who would have any use for receipts for cement orders or blueprints for a community center? It is not the data itself that hackers are after but the value it holds for its rightful owners.
Demand for construction has been high recently thanks to influences like the housing market boom and the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill. Builders are working on valuable projects, often with tight deadlines to meet. That makes these companies appealing targets for hackers. In fact, construction is the third most frequently targeted industry for ransomware attacks.
The situation is worsened by the uneven adoption of technology in construction. Digital transformation has been making its way through the industry slowly. Larger companies have the money to invest widely in new technologies, including effective cybersecurity tools. Small and medium-sized businesses are likelier to adopt new technologies with minimal or no adequate cybersecurity knowledge.
Construction Software as a Double-Edged Sword
Construction software is one of the first tools many companies adopt when beginning a digital transformation. Several types are popular today, ranging from accounting programs to customer management software, all designed to meet industry-specific needs. These are fantastic tools but can pose a security risk.
Contractor accounting software is a perfect example of this. It makes bookkeeping far easier and gives back-office tasks an efficiency boost. The best programs even have security features.
However, the security features provide minimal protection if a construction company adopts an accounting program and doesn’t have secure devices or networks. Accounting software holds valuable financial information that could catch a hacker’s eye. For instance, a cybercriminal who gains access to a construction company’s accounting software could see how much money the company is making, hinting at the potential profits of a ransomware attack. Similarly, they might gain access to financial information such as bank routing and account numbers.
Part of the challenge is that construction software programs create new digital avenues that companies must keep track of. There are more corners of their digital space where hackers could find a backdoor or weak link.
For instance, a software program might include a feature that allows users to share their accounting data over the cloud. This could be highly useful for some construction companies. However, for those that don’t need it or may not even know how to use it, cloud connectivity could create security risks they’re not prepared to handle. For example, it might leave a business vulnerable to unauthorized access through the cloud.
This challenge gets even more complicated when contractor accounting software is used to manage projects for numerous clients. There is more data to keep track of, which could be at risk if the program is compromised.
Additionally, it is worth noting that hackers may target accounting software not for financial data but rather to get into a construction company’s system at large. A weakness in any digital tool can potentially be exploited as a backdoor into the entire network. Financial data can tell a hacker a lot about a potential target, but locking down information or a whole system is how cybercriminals make their profit.
How Construction Companies Can Protect Themselves
How can construction companies reap the benefits of contractor accounting software and other digital tools without putting themselves and their clients at risk? Digital construction tools are considered the future of the industry, capable of making teams more efficient, safe and productive. These tools are well worth investing in with the proper security precautions.
The first step is learning more about cybersecurity and good practices. Poor user practices are the second most common cause of ransomware attacks, accounting for 27% of reported infections. This includes reusing passwords, using weak passwords, clicking on suspicious links, and failing to install or update cybersecurity software. Training can minimize these issues in construction companies.
Additionally, construction companies must protect their devices, networks and software programs. For instance, they should have secure firewalls for their office and on-site networks. Upper-level employees such as supervisors or managers working remotely must install updated cybersecurity programs on their work devices. Businesses should also update old computers because hackers frequently exploit older operating systems.
Companies choosing a contractor accounting software program should always research its security measures. They also need to protect their cyber-physical systems, particularly IoT devices. These are becoming prime targets for hackers because they often lack adequate security.
Cloud-based programs can be a good choice since information is backed up in the cloud, making it much more difficult for hackers to successfully hold any data ransom. Several top construction accounting programs are cloud-based, so plenty of options exist. However, they aren’t invulnerable. Companies must have strong access control protocols and stick to trustworthy cloud providers.
Securing Contractor Accounting Software and More
Contractor accounting software programs, project management software, IoT devices and countless other digital tools are transforming how the industry operates. These digital tools are highly valuable and helpful, but they can pose serious security risks if not appropriately protected.
Construction companies must make their digital and physical systems cyber-resilient to successfully implement accounting software and other digital applications.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. A regular contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine, she has over four years of experience writing articles in the industrial sector.
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