United States: Be Proactive Now: Commercial Construction Quickly Joining List Of Industries Vulnerable To Cyber Attacks

Last Updated: June 9 2017
Article by Jeffrey M. Dennis and Nathan Owens

Commercial contractors have long faced their own unique business risks - labor and material shortages, delay claims, bonding issues, and defects in workmanship. But, in today's ever-evolving cyber world, it is imperative that contractors understand they are vulnerable to risks beyond finishing a project on time and on budget. As we are seeing more and more each day, cyber threats impact all businesses, including the construction industry, and the failure to protect against these threats will cost your company millions in damages and reputational harm.


Traditionally, cyber threats are thought of as the theft of employee and customer information over the internet. Given the construction industry is the largest employer in the world, the need to protect this information is obvious. The release or loss of personnel or consumer data could lead to extensive liability under a variety of potential claims, including statutory fines. In addition to securing confidential information, companies have to protect against outside agents accessing control of a company's security protocols, equipment or encrypting files using malicious software. The recent "WannaCry" attack demonstrates that no business is immune from cyber attacks.


For those that think these scenarios do not happen, here are two examples of these types of breaches:

  • In May 2013, Chinese hackers stole floor plans, server information, and security system designs from an Australian prime contractor. Fearing the risks of compromised physical and network security, the contractor incurred additional costs of $132.6 million in project delays and costs to rework the various components that had been stolen.
  • Then, in December 2014, a German governmental office reported that a steel mill suffered massive damage when malware prevented a blast furnace from being properly shut down. Hackers gained access to key technology within the company, which eventually allowed them to control the production line.


In addition to these types of "traditional" hacking threats, cybersecurity risks continue to evolve and become more complicated every day. Some of these new threats are driven by the development of a phenomenon known as the Internet of things, or IoT. The IoT is most basically defined as the interconnection of devices with on / off switches to the Internet and each other. Since the IoT is estimated to be 20 billion or more devices within 3 years, and can be combined with malicious software, IoT poses one of the most challenging risks for contractors to protect against.

The technology included in today's commercial buildings clearly opens this avenue of risk. A centralized computer control center, typically employed in new buildings, controls and maintains the systems that are vital to the operation of the building, e.g., power, elevators, HVAC, lighting, and security. What happens if a hacker gains control to one of these systems, let alone all of them? What if a hacker simply utilizes an IoT attack to overwhelm a building's computer systems? In either scenario, at a minimum, significant disruption would occur. Worse, the health and safety of those within the building could be jeopardized. A hacker may utilize ransomware in combination with an IoT attack to take over control of the building and hold it and possibly the occupants "hostage" until a ransom is paid.

The first significant IoT attack happened in October 2016 when a major web hosting company was attacked through the IoT, causing the host site to crash. The attack did not steal information, it simply caused the site to crash. But, that crash caused world-wide disruption across the Internet. Hackers used malicious software to access a hundred thousand common household devices — web cameras, fitness trackers, DVR's, smart TVs and even baby monitors — to flood the hosting company's servers with incredibly high internet traffic. This attack showed that everyday items can be hacked and controlled by cyber criminals and then used against anyone else.

As we have all seen in recent news, the WannaCry cyber attack impacted businesses across the globe. Days after the attacks, hospitals were still left feeling its impact with continued appointment and planned operation cancellations, and delays in service. We should expect to see these types of attacks increasing in frequency.


Make no mistake about it, the stakes are incredibly high in the realm of cyber security protection. By 2021, the annual worldwide cost attributable to cyber attacks is estimated to reach the trillions of dollars. If any of these potential attacks occur, a contractor faces significant exposure, in many forms, including:

  • Monetary. Cybersecurity events result in direct monetary losses in the form of notification costs, data recovery costs, and, of course, legal and public relations fees. States are also starting to impose strict standards on companies which will result in significant regulatory punishment in the cases of cyber breaches, including the added costs associated with agency investigations, regulatory fines and consumer redress funds.
  • Reputation. Perhaps more important than the monetary risk, a contractor may incur substantial reputational harm if such a breach or attack is successful. Recent data has shown that small to medium-sized companies that experience a significant cybersecurity breach go out of business within six months of the breach – due to not only high monetary costs, but severe reputational damage.
  • Criminal. The recently passed New York cybersecurity regulations place potential criminal penalties on compliance personnel. Other states are likely to follow New York.

As a business leader and commercial builder, the time to act is now. While the purchase of specific cyber insurance is an important part of protecting against the risks of a cyber attack, many cyber policies contain exclusionary language embedded in the policy making coverage potentially illusory. Additional steps can and need to be taken immediately, including an honest discussion of internal cybersecurity protections, examination of risk management strategy, and the training of employees. Failure to take these important steps could result in a disastrous cybersecurity breach and the loss of millions of dollars.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.