According to Audit Analytics’ Trends in Cyber Security Breach Disclosures report, cybersecurity breaches increased by 118 percent year-over-year in 2021, with ransomware attacks up 44 percent. Specifically for MTUs, several building owners and management companies have recently had their systems hacked and/or breached, some of which have led to massive lawsuits. Others have suffered from an enormous loss of private data and information of their tenants and customers – including address, phone numbers, legal names – the list goes on.
Cybersecurity is, therefore, of the utmost importance in these types of deployments. Security is and should be everyone’s responsibility from owners to property management, to tenants and guests also playing their part.
As we near the end of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, let’s review some areas that will better safeguard MTU properties against common issues in this sector.
Secure Segregated Wi-Fi Network
The central network in the building should be configured securely and each tenant’s apartment or public space should be segregated from that of their neighbors. The network should support the latest security standards such as Passpoint, WPA3 or WPA2. If a guest network is also provided, this too should be separated from any other network zone. In addition, any ethernet sockets should be zoned correctly to the tenant or the public space. According to data from the NMHC, over 60% of renters work from home, so separation of the connectivity, via virtual private networks, for example, goes beyond the safety of personal data to the safety of corporations as well.
Front of House Versus Back of House
Suppose the building has smart devices installed by the building owner or management company, such as smart thermostats, digital locks, intelligent ventilation systems and security cameras. In that case, these should all sit in their own segregation zones, minimizing one system affecting another since these systems are often provided by different companies. If one of those companies’ devices suffers a hack by a bad actor, then the hacked device should not be able to be used as a hop box to other devices on the network. Loss of internet connectivity, power outages and loss of use of these digital devices would be a risk, in addition to the data connected across the property. Network segregation is essential in these scenarios.
Firewalls & Intrusion Detection
The main central building network should have a firewall enabled to block common threats, which should protect inbound traffic and potential internal attacks. For example, a tenant may have a guest stay for the weekend who could be tempted to try and attack the central network. So having the firewall, intrusion detection, and prevention system in place should be a requirement.
This again applies to everyone; every device should be upgraded as soon as the vendor provides any security software update. Building owners and management companies should have a strategy to monitor for security updates and apply them as quickly as possible. Most consumer-graded products will have some registration process to send email notifications, and some may have automatic update notifications; these should be activated and acted on as soon as the update is released and you are notified. Tenants should also be aware of all the devices that connect to their network; over time, many devices get connected, and nothing should be forgotten. For example, when did that Wi-Fi game console get updated? Or that Wi-Fi-enabled Teddy Bear?
Phishing is still the most popular cybercrime and the precursor to most cyber attacks. Everyone should be made aware of Phishing and how to spot a potential attack. It’s more than data; there’s really monetary loss here. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach to an organization is 4.24 million dollars.
There are many things that residents can do to help secure their networks and devices from cybercrime. By taking these precautions, residents, building owners, and management companies can help protect themselves and their neighbors from the dangers of cyber attacks.
Dr Spencer is the Chief Information Security Officer at Nomadix & GlobalReach Technology and has been a technology leader in the Wi-Fi industry for well over two decades. Previously the Chief Technology Officer for GlobalReach for over 20 years, his team helped to design and build some of the world’s largest secure Wi-Fi networks, allowing seamless connectivity for users.
A recognized thought leader in best-practice secure, seamless sign-on experience, and the use of Passpoint (Hotspot 2.0), Chris has been involved in the specification, and delivery of Next Generation Hotspots (NGH), and leads and co-leads several industry working groups for the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) and the Seamless Air Alliance (SAA).