Physical Security and Cybersecurity Merge at Deloitte’s New Space

hacking concept: man using a laptop with password on on the screen

Nowadays, innovation is driven by embracing new technologies. At River Creek, the brand-new Deloitte headquarters situated in Waterfall City, Midrand, the optimised building has been designed using intelligent space management to enhance the user experience, increase productivity, reduce costs, and mitigate physical and cybersecurity risks.

This is according to Eric McGee, Associate Director in Deloitte’s Cyber Practice, who explained that the building was created with the intention to create competitive differentiation within a digitally connected structure.

“Smart buildings are the future of workplaces, harnessing the power of connected digital technologies, data and design thinking to boost efficiency and effectiveness of building services.  This new wave of digital transformation also brings new cyber risks that could fundamentally impact the existence of smart buildings,” said McGee.

Cyber threats have been on the rise for decades, but the last few years have seen an explosion in digital attacks that target both data and physical assets. As connected devices proliferate at  breakneck speed, cyberattacks and vulnerabilities in one area can have a cascading effect on numerous other sectors within a business. The consequences extend beyond just data loss, financial impact and reputational damage, and can even include disruption of crucial services and infrastructure across a broad range of domains.

The COVID-19 outbreak has meant businesses have had to re-examine their general readiness in terms of the risks associated with remote working, where sensitive information is at a higher risk of being accessed by outsiders. Data is being distributed across the employee base, wherever they are working from, using home routers – meaning infrastructure is simply not as secure. Essentially the attack surface has been enlarged giving cyber criminals more places to attack from and the chances of malware infections are increased across your work network.

“Most organisations are not effectively geared to deal with the current volume of traffic that is required for remote working because of the amount of people that suddenly had to work remotely. That put some strain on their remote access infrastructure and in many instances – to deal with the productivity issues experienced, controls were reduced,” said McGee.

However, at the convergence of physical and digital infrastructure, Deloitte’s new cybersecurity systems ensure an interconnectedness between the building’s systems and outgoing data, as part of an ongoing effort to upgrade its protection capabilities. Endpoint protection solutions have been put in place to protect sensitive data and ensure stronger detection capabilities that quickly identify and isolate infected machines to deal with any potential information breaches.

From a physical perspective, Deloitte’s new building is connected with a plethora of IoT (Internet of Things) sensors in order to detect the presence of both vehicles and people in the building and their location at any given time. A combination of cameras and strategically positioned environmental control systems means these sensors collect data 24/7, which is stored and analysed in terms of movement, as well as volume of people to analyse productivity.

“We essentially have the ability to indirectly manage volumes of people much easier through presence detection capabilities with sensors that know exactly how many people are in different areas of the building ensuring compliance with COVID-19 workplace regulations,” said McGee.

“Our management systems are cloud hosted, providing resilience and enabling new capabilities  as functionality are developed and upgraded continuously through the cloud providers, which release new updates and functionality daily. This allows us to leverage cutting edge capabilities (such as uploading our CCTV footage to the cloud) and image analysis on that footage in order to detect strange behaviours outside of the norm and to analyse the data to pick up specific individuals with risky or dangerous behaviours,” he continued.

All this data means that through communication and connectivity across the network, potential hacking risks can be immediately detected. A reinforcement of the already tight security restrictions and ID authentications is also mitigating potential physical attacks.

The data collection has allowed insight into the organisation’s business processes and where high value individuals are at any given time – which is also sensitive information.

“To this end, a lot of thought has been put into the actual design of the network in the building so that the sensors and analytics data is segmented from the normal network. It gives us the ability to separate the digital traffic of normal day to day corporate business from strange behaviour on the network. For example, an abnormally large amount of traffic from a specific source machine would trigger an alert which would warrant investigation. Because we know where the traffic comes from, and there is a lot of information in terms of location, we can respond to that very quickly,” said McGee.

McGee believes that what is truly powerful about Deloitte’s building from a cyber perspective is the fact that it has cloud enabled sensors, which means high resiliency in its infrastructures. Due to much of the data being cloud-based, one has to worry less about risk of physical damage at the location. This also helps protect against other challenges linked to power supply, such as load shedding.

“The connectivity is never really a major concern because of the backup power, which eliminates risk from a power point of view,” he added.

Cybersecurity in a connected building is just too important to be treated as an afterthought. The power of being part of a connected building that leverages cloud and dynamic technology solutions is that you can apply that to both the cyber and physical world – leveraging technologies to respond quickly and seamlessly.

But for McGee, smart buildings can be used for more than just enhancing security.

“The data that is generated by a smart building can also be an asset that will lead to new business models and revenue streams, which is why ensuring that all of the data it collects is protected. Smart buildings need more protection than the traditional security systems of a building. We ensured that an integrated approach to managing cyber risk and cybersecurity principles was baked into every stage of the building’s development process from strategy to design implementation,” he said.