Research + Tech

Construction sites adopt new technology amid COVID-19 crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the U.S. construction industry to adopt new technologies to monitor job sites remotely and help workers practice social distancing, according to

Many office workers have been working from home, making the connection between a job site and office more crucial than before. Scott Crozier, general manager of civil engineering and construction for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based software company Trimble Inc., says shared data and digital connectivity is becoming the norm. Crozier notes inspectors are beginning to allow the use of technology for virtual inspections, which can speed up the process because no one needs to physically visit a job site.

Crozier also says the lower cost of labor has delayed technology adoption in the U.S. construction industry for years; cheaper labor, despite a lack of skilled workers, means less demand for technology. In Europe and Australia, the higher cost of labor means contractors need to innovate rapidly, which often attracts young Americans with construction and technology backgrounds.

As construction was deemed essential and allowed to continue in nearly all 50 states, technology firms and safety app developers introduced or expanded various applications that some construction leaders say will become the norm. Such applications include using image data or wearables to track workers, ensure they maintain social distancing and reduce social density on job sites; providing questionnaires for workers to complete before allowing them on-site to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading; and allowing for virtual walkthroughs so stakeholders can have up-to-date imagery of work in progress without visiting job sites.

During a recent webinar, Anita Woolley Nelson, chief strategy officer of Skanska USA Building Inc., Parsippany, N.J., said she doesn’t believe the status quo will return when the pandemic ends, but new applications will help maintain productivity.

“People always say you can’t take a job site home with you,” she said, “[but] maybe you can.”

Cyberattacks increase as more people work remotely

As more people work remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, explicit COVID-19-related cyberattacks emerge daily, increasing the volume of threats, according to

In January, Santa Clara, Calif.-based computer security software company McAfee began detecting pieces of mobile malware disguised as apps for body temperature checks or other COVID-19 prevention functions. The cyberthreats began to broaden, and Raj Samani, chief scientist at McAfee, says “it’s like we’ve kicked over a hornet’s nest.”

Other cyberattacks exploit the circumstances related to the outbreak, such as people logging on from unsecure devices.

Samani says though most security software will stop most of the attacks, many attacks are “hiding in plain sight” in fragmented threats indirectly related to COVID-19.

Employers with a remote workforce must increase their awareness regarding traditionally consumer-targeted threats. Many people are tempted to click on corrupt links about COVID-19 because people are anxious and want information. Employees might be fooled by attacks on their internet service providers, streaming services or websites disguised as aids for small-business loans.

Between January and March, internet-exposed Remote Desktop Protocol ports have increased from 3 million to 4.5 million, with many belonging to the U.S. Access to an RDP box grants an attacker scope of an entire network from which he or she can engage in many forms of cyberattacks. The most vulnerable systems reportedly are running Windows Servers.

COVID-19 cyberattacks put construction companies and other organizations on high alert. Distribution of malicious software or viruses via web domains is spiking. Key words associated with COVID-19 are mixed in with phony sites and phishing campaigns. Campaigns with luring mechanisms are delivering malware, including keyloggers, banking Trojans and remote administration tools.

“There’s nothing that I would say, ‘We’ve not seen that before,’” Samani says. The problem is “just the sheer volume of just everything under the sun.”



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