Cyber security threats of digital built environment


Smart Cities: what is the current security landscape?

The cyber-physical connectivity in Smart Buildings makes our cities more sustainable and prosperous for its citizens but it comes with its share of risks.

Improving the speed and efficiency of construction processes through the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) presents both great opportunities and threats for the construction industry.

Our BIM Specialist, Erika Pärn will be presenting “Cyber threats and vulnerabilities of Construction 4.0” on the 12th of March 2019 at the NYU of Abu Dhabi. She will talk about BIM and Cybersecurity.

The Architecture, engineering, construction and operations (AECO) sector  creates economic wealth and jobs hence, the UK government’s BIM Level 2 mandate has sought to immerse the sector within a digital economy. By driving the digital agenda, the government hopes to transform the sector into being a leader for technology adoption and at the vanguard of delivering smart city development, economic reform and environmental sustainability. For operational stages the facilities management (FM) sector, this means adopting new ways of working and creates a need for better informed designers and contractors, if technology adoption of BIM is to cascade into BIM-enabled FM. As BIM proliferates into the operational stages of the built environment new threats of cyber crime are opened up to the constructed built assets.

The gradual shift into 3D model-based reliance by built environment personnel means that vulnerable asset-related information is now stored via networked systems throughout the life-cycle of a building. In particular, this has been evidenced by the growing number of projects that have solely relied upon cloud-based tools to validate and federate the BIM in order to handover the as-built BIM. The as-built BIMs typically handed over to clients have represented a ‘digital twin’ of  built facilities to an impeccable level of detail and accuracy, usually followed by laser scanned validation. Physically accessible barcodes, connecting each room or built asset to the digital as-built BIM hosted on a cloud-based service provider, are of particular danger. A plethora of cyber-threats are confronting digital BIM-enabled FM and its built assets, these are likely to occur because they are reliant upon a CDE where increased access to such sensitive asset data is prevalent in the later stages of the life-cycle of the building.

Whilst cyber physical attacks are widely discussed in other more prominent and advanced sectors such as information technology and transport/infrastructure, it has yet to receive similar attention or debate in the AECO sector. BIM offers a conduit for malicious cyber physical attacks, through the continued use of as-built BIM where sensitive asset data is presented in easily understandable geometric and semantic format. Therefore more careful consideration of how geometric and semantic detail is to be shared in BIM via a CDE needs to be adopted in the built environment to better plan and prepare for the eventuality of cyber crime and cyber physical attacks of our contemporary smart cities. To reconcile such challenges, researchers and practitioners within the AECO sector should adopt cyber-deterrence approaches applied within in more technologically advanced industries as those in the aerospace and automotive sectors. 

Erika coordinates Exergy’s ongoing research projects with EU commission on BIM. These projects are centered in the renovation market and BIM for existing buildings:

SeismandPrecast: a novel construction system for tall buildings that is low-cost, industrialised and, most importantly, Seism-Resistant. (,

GreenInstruct: prefabricated modular wall panel made from Construction and Demolition Waste. (

BIMERR: the project will design and develop a Renovation 4.0 toolkit which will comprise tools to support renovation stakeholders throughout the renovation process of existing buildings, from project conception to delivery.

Erika’s Bio and an the presentation abstract

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