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Real Estate

Cyber security in real estate a rising threat

By Daniel Lepore
Head of Asset Technology Sydney, Australia

Cyber security is a term usually associated with data breaches such as hackers accessing bank accounts, viruses locking up computers and conflicts between nation-states.

But it is fast becoming a must-know topic for real estate investors.

Modern buildings are adopting increasingly more internet-accessible technologies, which manage the safety, accessibility and thermal comfort of occupants. All of which are intended to do so to enhance sustainability performance and create seamless tenant experiences.

AMP Capital’s Smart Building Platform alone analyses some 385,000 individual data points every 15 minutes, detecting equipment that needs maintenance, whilst Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes pre-emptive control adjustments to air conditioning operations to reduce carbon emissions.

This generates an enormous amount of data that must be stored and managed securely.

And there are the systems which control access to buildings through security gates, send the elevators to the right floors, run the camera monitoring systems, turn the lights on and off – and even monitor life safety that have never been more integrated with one another.

The Australian government has labelled malicious cyber activity one of the most significant threats impacting Australians, saying that in FY20 alone the Australian Cyber Security Centre, the lead agency for cyber security, responded to 2,266 cyber security incidents at a rate of almost six per day.1

The true volume of malicious activity in Australia is likely to be much higher the government supposes, with cyber incidents targeting small, medium and large Australian businesses costing the economy up to $29 billion per year, or 1.9% of Australia’s gross domestic product.2

So how important is cyber security to the real estate industry? And what are landlords doing about it?
Well, the answer is, a lot. Most modern office buildings or shopping centres likely run some 15 to 30 different operational technologies and computer systems side by side3.

Increasingly, these systems operate on common network infrastructure with an ability to be centrally accessed, meaning the applications and data collected are managed over the internet and stored in cloud computing servers.

There are more and more technology enhancements being introduced every day - mobile phones are being used for access control, elevators are controlled by touchless sensors detecting fingers and soon, facial recognition and biometrics will become mainstream, allowing people recognised by the AI systems to walk through security checkpoints without stopping.

The increasing sophistication of the technology means buildings and infrastructure assets have become targets for cyber criminals and so-called state-based actors and it is more important than ever that our real estate assets are properly protected.

Earlier this year, hackers gained entry to the systems of America’s biggest fuel pipeline, shutting it down and demanding a ransom, leading to long lines at petrol stations and higher fuel prices.

In May, the world’s biggest meat processing company was forced to shut workers out of its operations after hackers took control of its systems.5

In real estate, the threat of ransomware cybercrime is growing. Although, one of the main vectors of attack is quite old fashioned – encouraging a worker to click on a link in an email that triggers a malicious download.

For buildings, the problem is heightened because many workers with access to a buildings systems are not educated in dealing with cybercrime. Most buildings have trades, cleaners, contractors and trainees with inside access.

But cybercrime does not have to be just about ransomware. Shopping centres face the simple threat of pranksters getting access to their digital billboards and signage and changing the messaging and videos being displayed causing reputational damage. But cyber criminals can also pose safety issues for people, shutting off access to floors and mischievously changing heating and cooling settings.

To proactively combat cyber-crime and allow the business to set up a safe smart building strategy, AMP Capital has implemented a portfolio wide Operational Technology (OT) cyber security program focusing on three complimentary streams.

  • A standardised remote access solution, enabling safe connectivity between building systems and authorised staff and contractors.
  • Policy guidelines founded on world-leading cyber security standards developed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, specifically tailored to building management systems.
  • Uplifting industry awareness through regular training to ensure that those people operating assets are properly educated on cybercrime and digital facilities management, creating a proactive cyber aware culture.

This industry leading program has established the foundations to transform AMP Capital into a globally recognised, innovative, data-insights led organisation, augmented by connecting and collecting data from diverse streams including building technologies that keep occupants safe, secure and comfortable.

People, process and technology must be intrinsically linked to achieve a sustained, long term cyber awareness culture. As Cyber security continues to evolve and change as the industry does, AMP Capital’s vigilance means our buildings can continue to deliver exceptional real estate experiences.
Like much of the rest of our lives, real estate has been eaten by software – buildings today are as reliant on silicon as they are on steel.

Ensuring the safety of tenants and investors from these new threats is at the forefront of a modern landlords’ minds.

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Daniel Lepore, Head of Asset Technology
  • Institutional Edition
  • Opinion
  • Real Estate
  • Technology
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Important notes

While every care has been taken in the preparation of this article, AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591, AFSL 232497) and AMP Capital Funds Management Limited (ABN 15 159 557 721, AFSL 426455)  (AMP Capital) makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in it including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. An investor should, before making any investment decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this article, and seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This article is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided and must not be provided to any other person or entity without the express written consent of AMP Capital.


This article is not intended for distribution or use in any jurisdiction where it would be contrary to applicable laws, regulations or directives and does not constitute a recommendation, offer, solicitation or invitation to invest.

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