The Architects' Journal (AJ) reports that a hacker broke into the servers of Zaha Hadid Architects and stole confidential information in an attempt to extort money. The London-based practice alerted police of the ransomware attack on April 21 after finding messages from the hacker indicating that company data had been encrypted and was being held hostage, according to the AJ. The firm said that all its data had been previously backed up and that it believed no project information had been affected, the publication also reported.

Across sectors, cyber attacks have increased dramatically during the pandemic. Just last week, the World Health Organization reported a five-fold increase in attacks directed toward its staff. Architecture firms are no exception to this trend. "We’ve seen two to three times the usual number of breaches, most frequently ransomware attacks," says Robert Rosenzweig, a national cyber risk practice leader at Risk Strategies, a large national insurance brokerage. Greg Fait, director of enterprise infrastructure at Perkins and Will, corroborated this to RECORD in late March. "At this time, we are seeing a significant spike in phishing and cyber-attack activity," he said.

To guard against digital deception, IT experts recommend taking some basic proactive steps. The most straightforward is to back up files regularly and take them off the network. “Once a week, make a copy of all your files on a USB drive, take it home and set it on a shelf,” says Joe Popper, COO of San Francisco-based managed services provider MicroMenders, which functions as an outsourced IT department to clients that include several architecture firms. “If you have a backup that is isolated from the network, you can always recover from that.” 

Read more about the impact cyber attacks are having on architecture firms during the pandemic, and how you can protect yourself and your practice.