The State of the Union and Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity was a focus in President Barrack Obama’s State Of the Union address tonight. The President has focused on cybersecurity in a series of speeches in which he has called for  better safeguards against identity theft, improved privacy protection, and enhanced cybersecurity for the government and private companies. The recent attack on Sony Pictures highlights private company vulnerability in  all of these areas and the impact that the threats can have on commerce, freedom of speech, confidentiality, and personal privacy.

Those of us who work in the commercial real estate industry have been hearing the warning and concerns of  the Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address for some time. Realcomm, which leads the discussion at the intersection of technology and real estate operations, has hit the theme of cybersecurity hard now for several years at its conferences and forums. The threat to commercial real estate is multi-faceted:

  • Commercial Real Estate in the US is valued at over $11 trillion.
  • Building systems including security, climate control, power, and access all have potential vulnerabilities.
  • Threats to buildings can impact the safety of the occupants and the habitability of the facilities
  • Building systems can be the pathway to cyber attacks against the financial and corporate data of the owner/operators.

Sandy Jacolow, Chief Information Officer at Silverstein Properties, speaks to the need for vigilence at every level of an organization. “Cybersecurity is at the forefront of every decision we make where technology plays a role.While you hear buzz about potential exposure relating to the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT),  it’s much more fundamental and permeates every level of our firm. It ranges from innate complexities of connecting integrated building systems, to sophisticated email phishing and the simplicity of a strong password policy. Simply put;  you have to be continually vigilant, constantly monitoring systems and remember to educate employees in an ever dynamic landscape.”

Tonight’s State of the Union Speech

As the President stated in tonight’s State of the Union address: “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.”

While legislation can help give government better tools and individuals better safeguards, all companies and individuals needs to be mindful of cybersecurity in the personal, professional, and corporate areas of responsibility. During the WWII, the phrase “Loose lips sink ships” warned servicemen and defense workers against the dangers of divulging secure information. In this current cyber war, divulged or easily deciphered passwords, poorly secured devices, and  public facing access are among the vulnerabilities that can endanger our safety, security, and well-being.



Author: Chris Saah
Chris lives in the Washington DC area with his wife and business partner, Allyn. His roles have included Chief Information Officer of Transwestern, the commercial real estate company, President of Saah Furniture, a family manufacturing and retail operation, and Associate Pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Central Maryland. He has also been the co-chair of Realcomm and is certified in the administration and interpretation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

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