Editor’s Note: Welcome to Future’s third edition of Need to Know, a series exploring complex topics and how they apply to each industry served by our websites and magazines.
Check out the main Need to Know Cybersecurity article here.
It seems with nearly every email we get or potential link to click on, cybersecurity is never far from our thoughts – either as a consumer or a business owner. For residential integrators, who are now owning more of the network than ever before, cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly integral part of their business.
In the industry for more than 35 years, Ron Wanless, owner and president of Oregon-based Technology Design Associates, has seen his share of trends and fads, and has prided himself on being an early adopter to help his business and his clients. With cybersecurity, he sees exposure, but also opportunity.
In terms of exposure, “The biggest threat to the integrator’s business is not getting into a position of safety with cybersecurity,” warned Wanless. “If you're going to own the network, then you’ve got to own the cybersecurity side of things, because if it’s your network and it gets breached, more than likely you're going to hear from somebody’s attorney.”
Despite the ever-shifting threat to the customer, there are some ways that integrators can help protect clients – including making sure that every default username and password is changed to avoid a takeover through the system’s VPN. “You need to be network savvy, and you should have some sort of certification that shows that you have enough knowledge to be able to set the system up properly,” said Wanless. “You need to know what security issues are out there and how you can best combat them.”
With growing trends in AI and managed services, integrators are exposed to additional areas of hacking, but also the means to monitor their installations and protect their customers. “Managed services and AI are great because they're helping us to make sure that, if these challenges show up in a client's network, they are being caught early before they become a problem to the entire network,” said Wanless. “So rather than it infecting everything, you might be able to isolate it to a small infection and get rid of it before it causes major damage.”
Wanless sees Cybersecurity as a Service (CaaS) as an opportunity for the integrator, something that his company is in the process of evaluating. “We're still in our infancy, but we are on board with doing it rather than worrying about handing it off to other people,” he said. “CaaS and Networking as a Service (NaaS) are going to be big in our industry over the next few years, and I think it's important for every quality integrator to get out there and do their due diligence and figure out where the best opportunities are to secure their client's networks and limit the liability that they're going to have to deal with.”
Even if CaaS is not in your cards, Wanless recommends keeping your customers in the know as to the latest cyberthreats. “It's important to make sure that you're doing your best to inform your clients,” he said. “We do our best to make sure that we're sending out information to them via emails and blogs, and we let them know that this information is coming and that they should keep up on it.”
Cybersecurity is only going to grow in importance as time goes on. Applying best practices toward it can only prove beneficial for protecting your customers – and your business.
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