In terms of IT tools, cybersecurity is a moving target, Neudesic’s Neward says. Complex, well-written software can aid in facility protection, as can firewalls and other virtual mechanisms to entry from outsiders, he says. “But no matter how much you put into place, given enough time and energy, someone will be able to hack it.” Keeping the systems offline is the only sure way to prevent the systems from being hacked remotely, he says. However, some mission-critical agencies must, to a degree, be online to maintain essential operations.
“Historically, cybersecurity has three tenets: detection, prevention, and response,” Neward says. “Our detection mechanisms are very weak. We don’t have any sort of response mechanisms. We’re left with prevention.” Giving personnel physical USB-based cryptographic keys rather than passwords to access certain information systems is one example of how prevention measures are slowly improving, he says.
While total cybersecurity may sound impossible, Neward believes that international and domestic government agencies have their own classified means and methodologies. “Certainly there are a lot of academics and mathematicians looking for secure channels so bad guys can’t spy on our communications,” he says. “I’m relatively convinced we have this more or less locked down.”
His bigger concern is the private sector entities that lack government’s sophisticated resources. “One of the things we have to accept is the security of your software system is only as good as the programmers who built it,” he says. “Everything today is basically built from scratch. You don’t want to buy something off the shelf because each system behaves differently. If you have something customized, you’re basically responsible for making sure the software works and is secure.”
An Endless Battle
The path to securing mission-critical architectural commissions is complex, immersive, and lengthy. Firms must build up credentials, contacts, and collaborative partnerships with specialists in the IT and telecommunications fields as well as other professions. But, most importantly, mission-critical architecture requires architects to manage an ever more diverse and multidisciplinary team. “The challenge for architects and engineers today is to become better informed and more cross-trained to better understand our clients’ needs,” Luman says. “We can bring leadership, coordination, and our physical design abilities to protect whatever the asset is.”
The potential payoff to the research, training, and networking that this highly specialized market requires can be huge. Once a firm throws its hat into the ring successfully, one commission may lead to the next. And with virtual attacks only increasing in frequency, audacity, and magnitude, the demand for secured facilities is bound to rise as well.