Are Hackers a Threat to My Design Firm?

Hackers make headlines daily with targets ranging from major Swiss banks to Minecraft users to German nuclear power plants. But what are the risks to architects and engineers?

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Professional Liability carrier Victor O. Schinnerer urges design professionals to Take Cyber Liability Exposures Seriously in a recent blog post:

Cyber liability problems that have disrupted firm operations often are based on one of three vectors:

— insiders who are dissatisfied or recognize their ability to tap firm assets and use that access for harm or personal profit;

— past employees who either take digital assets with them or to enact revenge against their former employers corrupt firm systems and information; and

— hackers who know that confidential project data is vulnerable and hold digital information hostage until a ransom is paid.

Hackers Can Wreak Havoc on a Firm

Although internal threats cause many cyber liability breaches, a malicious outsider is one of the greatest fears of professional services firms. A hacker could cause data inaccessibility through alteration or destruction. A firm would lose intellectual property and no longer be able to meet contract objectives and deadlines. Attackers who gain access to a firm’s data can encrypt it using ransom-ware and extort payment to regain access to information. Firms that do not properly preserve digital assets through robust back-up systems often have no alternative but to pay the ransom.

Construction projects today are increasingly dependent on digital technology. The adoption of BIM and the increasing use of digital technologies in designing, constructing, and operating buildings and infrastructure are transforming the way the industry works. The concept of collaborative work through the sharing and use of detailed models and large amounts of digital information requires that parties be aware of vulnerability issues and take appropriate control measures. Improper access controls could lead to an attack severely disrupting progress on a project, causing delays or remedial work that could lead to significant claims from owners, lenders, or other stakeholders. And if confidential information on the structure or systems of projects is accessed by unauthorized parties, the safety of the owners and users of the buildings or infrastructure could be put at risk.

It is possible to insure against these vulnerabilities. Schinnerer’s Cyber Protection Package is one example of such coverage. Here are a few others:

Give your local a/e ProNet broker a call to discuss your options today.

PNN_1405Seen any changes the past thirty years in the delivery of professional design services?  Sure, you have—particularly in the area of construction documents. Raised stools and drafting tables, pounce, and lead-darkened calluses on the middle finger of the draftsmen have, for the most part, yielded to CAD. Although CAD’s promise of error-free drawing may have proven elusive, many of its other promises have been fulfilled. Some even appear understated in hindsight—in part because CAD and the Internet seem to have been made for each other. Their combined effect reduces trying to list all the ways CAD has changed project delivery to a futile exercise.

Like CAD in the ‘80’s, BIM seems to hold similar promise today—a fact not lost on contractors, A/E’s, and project owners alike. Digital models are more-and-more often offered or requested as “deliverables.”  And multiple models for the same project are not uncommon—as building team participants explore their usefulness at various stages of design and construction. Some models are used much like enhanced CAD construction documents, provided and controlled largely by the A/E. But many incorporate data contributed by sources other than licensed design professionals, including suppliers, fabricators, contractors, and subs. Not surprisingly, many contractors and construction managers view BIM as a means for carving out an increased share of the project delivery pie—and are taking full advantage of it as both a marketing and performance tool. Some of them have even become the primary creators and custodians of digital models. Of course, that is not altogether unnatural. After all, it’s hard to ignore a tool that can show what will be built—and also to be useful in actually building it. Continue reading “The Design Professional in the Age of BIM: Things that change; things that don’t.”

PN - Vol. 21, No.2. 2013 - Building Information Modeling (BIM)Embracing the latest technology can set a design firm apart from the crowd, but it can also set you up for a rough road if you’re not adequately prepared beforehand. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is far from “new” at this point, but some wary design professionals have abstained from it anyway, allowing time to tell whether BIM would be a positive thing for the industry, overall. Good news!

“Building Information Modeling (BIM)… [has] not necessarily opened the door to more claims, as several carriers expected. A few [insurance companies] have found BIM projects to be low-risk; some even went as far as giving discounts to design clients that utilize BIM.” — Engineering, Inc., February 2014

a/e ProNet’s latest ProNet Practice Note, authored by Joseph Barra of Robinson & Cole, can take you from here. The following is an excerpt from Building Information Modeling (BIM): Now that you know how to spell BIM, is it right for you and your firm?

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the process of developing a virtual, three-dimensional, information rich model to design, construct, and maintain a building project. BIM is much more than software used to produce a pretty 3D graphic. Because a variety of information can be embedded into the model, BIM can also be used to manage the project’s construction schedule (4D); to track project costs (5D); and, once constructed, facility management (6D).

There are varying levels of BIM adoption and use, from an initial pilot project with one player using BIM tools to a team process with agreed-upon collaborative BIM process goals. In ideal process, all project participants share information.

These times are a changin’…

Because BIM is about process and not just software, it gives designers and constructors a unique opportunity to eliminate the barriers to collaborative thinking. One example is found in the redundancies inherent in the shop-drawing process. In this case, the goal of the BIM process is to abolish the wasteful practice of having to draw the entire project twice. Because BIM facilitates teamwork, many see BIM as an opportunity to reach out across disciplines and reconsider the traditional paradigm. Make no mistake, we still need experienced architects, engineers, contractors, and owners to deliver a successful project. But in today’s BIM-enabled world, the process is becoming more collaborative, which in turn redefines the project team’s risk profile.

To continue reading, download the full PDF version of this newsletter, which outlines Factors to Consider before deciding to use BIM (e.g., Type of Project, Timing, Teammates, Project Delivery Method). And if you have additional questions about BIM and/or professional liability insurance, be sure to contact your local a/e ProNet broker today!

EngineeringInc_aeProNetad_2014

Incredibly, even the global economic crisis hasn’t hardened the Professional Liability Insurance market for Architects and Engineers. Today, there are more insurance companies offering A&E policies than ever. And, thanks to the increasing insurance savvy of Design Professionals (particularly those utilizing the services of specialist brokers), new Professional Liability insurers are offering more in the way of risk management and pre-claims assistance, too.

You’ll find all this information and more outlined in the The Hard Market That Never Came, an analysis of the 2013 Professional Liability Insurance Survey of Carriers, in the February 2014 issue of Engineering, Inc. Continue reading “Engineering Inc. – 2013 Professional Liability Insurance Survey of Carriers”