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AJ survey: one in six practices affected by cyber attacks

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One in six architectural firms has recently been a victim of a cyber attack, the AJ’s recent industry survey has revealed

Responding to a question in The Architects’ Journal’s reader survey on life in practice, 55 out of 321 respondents (17 per cent) said their employer had been hit by hackers, phishing or ransomware.

With business increasingly relying on cloud services to store information and work collaboratively, the risk of cyber crime seems to be increasing for architects.

Many architects were unwilling to speak on the record about their experiences, but anonymous responses to the survey show a number of firms complaining about ransomware and phishing attacks.

In one case an attack rendered a workstation unusable. A respondent reported: ‘The attackers wanted us to download their software to remove it. Ultimately we had to upgrade the workstation.’

Another serious breach saw hackers gain access to a practice’s bank account and steal money.

Cyber criminals also rang one office, pretending to be an external IT company and asked for access to log onto an architect’s computer. Happily, the call was diverted in time.

In a separate incident, someone impersonated a practice director via email and fraudulently requested a dividend payment from the accounts team.

As more buildings become ‘smart’ and connected to the internet, the cyber threat will increase

Talal Rajab, head of cyber security at industry representative body techUK, said architects will need to become more aware of online security issues – in the buildings they design as well as those they work in.

‘As more buildings are becoming “smart” and connected to the internet,’ he said, ‘the cyber threat will increase.

‘Such buildings increasingly use technology to control aspects such as heating, lighting and physical access control, all of which are potential vectors for attackers to hack.

‘A computer or a device can usually be fixed by a simple system update and patch.

‘For buildings, however, this is harder as the sensors and thermostats aren’t necessarily things that you can easily reboot for a patch or software update.’

A separate recent survey showed that UK businesses lost around £29.1 billion as a result of hacking in 2016.

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