Last month, I mentioned books I hadn’t read (by Vonnegut), so this month, I thought I’d open with a movie I haven’t seen. Back when my then-fiancé and I lived in Michigan, she worked on dinner one night while I made a run to the video store (there’s your timeframe giveaway!). She told me to go rent Sneakers since she loved it and I had never seen it, but I mangled the instruction somehow and I came back with Hackers. The videotape never made it past the front door. Fortunately, it wasn’t far (back) to the video store.

I was reminded of that evening recently when I saw the headline from Reuters: “Hackers halt plant operations in watershed cyber attack.” We had just published Paul Ehrlich’s feature on some prudent steps to consider regarding cyber and physical security. Right before that, ABMA President Scott Lynch had relayed his membership’s growing interest in such matters following an interesting keynote speech on the subject. You’ll find one related article in the last Today’s Boiler ( and likely more to come.

What made this hack a little different, according to the story by Jim Finkle, was that it was a first for an industrial plant. Speculation has more often focused on “conventional” critical facilities like data centers and public utilities systems, along with the wave of ransomware victims that has included a hospital. Somewhat unnerving is the report that the hackers seemed to be on a sort of reconnaissance mission more than a full-on attack. In any event, “sophisticated malware to take remote control of a workstation” will give pause to any number of manufacturers and facility engineers.

Check out those two articles, and if you’ve had actual experience with attempts to hack a system, I’d love to hear about it. Write me at or connect at LinkedIn.



The only thing Ken Sinclair is trying to hack is the future of building automation for the better. I’ll give one more quick plug to his free educational sessions for all of you rolling into Chicago later this month for AHR and ASHRAE events. Monday morning at 9:30 a.m., the trio kicks off with “Data At The Open Intelligent Edge.” A cousin session starts at 1:30 p.m., a panel discussing “Growing The Open Intelligent Edge” and how current trends will change the whole architecture of building systems with open source/open standards.

Then on Tuesday morning, “Are Master System Integrators Becoming The New Building Data Architects?” tackles the question of … well, you know. The role of consulting engineers has been shifting and somewhat up for grabs within the building automation world ever since Sinclair was writing his monthly column for us, so go absorb some current ideas to stay on top of an ever-fluid dynamic.



By the way, my wife was right. Sneakers is really good, and it features a pretty spectacular cast. Now that I think about it, I’ll spoil just a little of it by telling you that in fact, its plot does include a BAS hack!

Meanwhile, although it stars Jonny Lee Miller (who more recently found fame in the U.S. as the lead in “Elementary”) and Angelina Jolie, 20 years later I’ve still never seen Hackers. In retrospect, my little story seems fitting enough since after all, you don’t see hackers coming until they’ve shown up. Then the question is: how well are you guarding the front and back door?



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January 20-24
ASHRAE Winter Conference

January 22-24
AHR Expo

February 19-23
Industrial Refrigeration Workshop
Kansas State Engineering
Charlotte, NC
Industrial Refrigeration Workshop or

April 23-26
CxEnergy 2018 Conference & Expo
AABC Commissioning Group
Las Vegas

May 9-10
2018 Healthcare Symposium