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Cyber security issues represent a design failure Paul Cook, Head of Technology, ISG Technology Solutions

Cyber security is rarely out of the news these days, whether it be a ransom ware or a DOS (denial of service) attack, basic fraud or the theft of intellectual property. It’s almost accepted that, at some point, we will either individually or corporately become the victims of a cyber-attack.

While the services of cyber security experts have never been so highly valued, our industry could be doing so much more to eradicate the conditions that allow security breaches to occur. The traditional way that we design buildings and their systems has changed little over the past two decades and this failure to challenge the status quo and embrace new approaches has left the door firmly open for cyber criminals to exploit.

If we examine the traditional approach to procuring and delivering any built environment project, it starts with a design and a host of specialist contractors, working in isolation to develop their packages to fulfil a poorly defined brief. Enlightened clients may instruct a Master Systems Integrator into the process, but usually this comes too late to affect real change and this role is simply to tie a host of disparate packaged systems into a workable solution, with no clear purpose, function or management plan.

This silo approach sets the conditions for data vulnerability as numerous systems, that aren’t designed to work together, are cajoled into an uneasy relationship that allows opportunists the chance to exploit weaknesses at the connectivity level.

Now, if we approach a project with a different mind-set, it’s possible to see how cyber security issues aren’t looked at in isolation but become part of the solution and strength of the building design process. A Master Systems Architect is our solution to many of the issues that have prevented the industry from moving forward and exploiting the opportunities presented by the technological revolution that is happening around us.


The Master Systems Architect is the interface between the client, the design and delivery partners, interrogating the client brief at a granular level to understand the true rationale behind the project. Only when this brief is established can the wider delivery team sit down collaboratively and develop a solution that addresses the bespoke requirements of the brief under a common technological platform. This last point is crucial – a common technological ecosystem is fundamental to the operation, maintenance and future-proofing of any built environment and leads to smart technology choices and better outcomes when analysing building performance and every other desired measurement metric.

Cyber security, then, is not an afterthought or a bolt-on solution at the end, but it is fundamental to the design process. We have engineered and designed, out the gateways for opportunistic cyber-attacks by selecting those constituent parts that, when brought together, create a secure data environment.

Breaking down the barriers and the silo mentality of an industry that has worked the same way for decades is not a simple task, however, there is growing recognition from clients that things should and must change.