Construction companies are integrating more connected technologies to boost efficiency, but this presents significant risks. Here’s how to secure construction site Wi-Fi in response.
The construction sector is finally embracing digital transformation. While tech adoption in the industry is often slow, innovations like cloud computing, IoT, and AI are becoming increasingly common across worksites. This shift is largely beneficial, but it also raises security concerns around construction site Wi-Fi.
If construction firms hope to make the most of their new technologies, they must secure them. That starts with learning why this security is important in the first place.
Why Is It Important to Secure Construction Site Wi-Fi?
Construction likely isn’t the first industry to come to mind when thinking of cybersecurity. After all, digitalization is still a recent trend in the sector and its IT infrastructure is relatively small and simplistic compared to other industries. However, this newness is precisely what makes construction site Wi-Fi such a tempting target for cybercriminals.
The construction sector’s adoption of digital technologies is outpacing its efforts to secure these systems. Because these businesses aren’t used to having to protect digital assets, they often don’t realize they’re at risk of not knowing what best practices to follow. This combination of inexperience and growing attack surfaces makes construction the most targeted industry for ransomware.
Notoriously hard-to-secure endpoints like IoT devices and other mobile technologies are also becoming increasingly common across construction sites. As this trend continues, firms’ digitalization could quickly pose more risks than value without proper security.
How to Secure Construction Site Wi-Fi
The threats facing construction site Wi-Fi are significant, but this issue is manageable. Construction firms can follow these six steps to protect their Wi-Fi networks and the data they carry.
The most important step is addressing the inexperience that makes the sector such a target. Human error played a role in 82% of data breaches in 2022, and construction teams may be even more susceptible to these vulnerabilities, given how new cybersecurity is in the industry.
Cybersecurity training should be part of every employee’s onboarding and ongoing development. Team leaders should go over best practices like using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication (MFA), as well as how to spot phishing attempts. To encourage compliance, leaders should make a personal case for cybersecurity by emphasizing how breaches can impact workers’ individual data privacy.
Because it’s easy to forget best practices and cybercrime is continually evolving, this training shouldn’t be a one-time effort. Regular refresher courses will help keep the workforce safe.
Secure IoT Devices
IoT vulnerabilities are another prominent threat to construction site Wi-Fi networks. These connected devices play a central role in construction’s digital transformation, but they often expand attack surfaces faster than firms can secure them.
Changing default passwords and settings is one of the best ways to protect these devices from attacks. That includes enabling MFA and data encryption, if available. Disabling auto-connect features will also help minimize the threat of lateral movement across worksite networks.
Construction teams should also segment their on-site Wi-Fi networks to separate IoT devices from other endpoints and data. While this may limit the IoT’s convenience and functionality, it’s a critical step toward minimizing attack surfaces. Regular software updates and network monitoring tools can further reduce these risks.
Use Anti-Malware Software
Next, construction teams must install anti-malware software on all worksite devices. While some firms may already use these tools in their offices, it’s easier to overlook in newer, often less sophisticated on-site networks. However, as more workers use their mobile devices on worksites, malware threats are increasingly relevant.
The dangers of an IoT attack or similar incident are too high to rely on built-in antivirus protections. Construction firms must download more advanced security software from a dedicated provider to protect against emerging threats. Regularly updating this software is similarly crucial.
Construction teams can consider security software beyond anti-malware protection, too. Automated network monitoring features are a good idea for worksites with more sensitive data or extensive IoT environments.
Use a VPN
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are another important piece of software for modern construction companies. More firms today are using tablets and smartphones on the worksite to improve communication and efficiency. While these bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies are excellent for productivity, they can make it challenging to manage endpoint vulnerabilities. VPNs offer a solution.
Mandating antivirus protection and managing human-related vulnerabilities is difficult when employees use their own devices at work. Requiring them to use a VPN to connect to company systems provides a layer of defense between these risky devices and sensitive data to mitigate those vulnerabilities.
While VPNs aren’t a perfect security solution, they do provide needed encryption to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and similar threats. Construction teams should also review their options to find the most secure VPN provider for their specific workflows.
Keep Everything Up to Date
As firms integrate more devices into construction site Wi-Fi networks, regular updates become increasingly critical. While teams may not be able to mandate updates for employees’ personal gadgets, they can ensure that company-owned hardware and software stay up to date.
All IoT devices, tablets, and other electronic devices on a construction site should have automatic updates enabled to provide them with the latest protections. The same goes for any software solutions worksites use, such as VPNs and anti-malware programs. On-site Wi-Fi routers’ firmware, which is easier to overlook, also needs updating as soon as new versions are available.
These regular updates should also extend into employee training. As new best practices emerge, construction companies should adopt them into their regular security training to stay as current as possible.
Have a Backup Plan
Finally, construction firms must recognize that no cybersecurity solution is perfect. Cybercrime is too dynamic and the risks too large to assume an on-site network will never suffer a breach. In light of these hazards, construction teams should develop emergency response and recovery plans.
Only 30% of construction businesses have a written business continuity plan for cyberattacks, and that has to change. Firms should review their attack surfaces to determine where their vulnerabilities lie, how to address them, and what attacks are most likely or damaging. They can then create a detailed plan for isolating attacks and getting systems back online in a worst-case scenario.
The specifics of these plans will vary between specific companies’ networks, but all should include backups of critical data. Encrypting these backups and keeping them both offline and in the cloud is similarly important. Backup plans should also include communication protocols to shorten response times.
Construction Site Wi-Fi Needs Protection
The construction industry’s digital transformation is a positive shift, but firms must approach it carefully. If teams don’t want their worksite Wi-Fi to be more helpful than risky, they must address their cybersecurity shortcomings.
These six steps will help construction companies protect their Wi-Fi networks and the critical company data they manage. That protection will ensure firms can capitalize on digitalization fully without jeopardizing their data and financial security.