Ryan Gobuty | GENSLER

The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) recently reported that the cyber risk to the apartment industry is erroneously overlooked and underestimated.

From deepfakes and phishing attacks to malware and ransomware, the cyber threat landscape has further reach and impact than ever before. The facts speak for themselves, and the apartment industry is no less vulnerable to cybersecurity risks than well-known sectors like health care entities and financial institutions.

To mitigate risk, preparedness is key. Professional services firm BDO LLP reports 92% of multifamily REITs cite cybersecurity risks as a growing concern.

Just ask one of the multifamily industry’s leading security experts, Derek Peterson, who has a doctorate in computer science. Peterson leads the global security operations at Boingo Wireless, a company long-acclaimed for the integrity of its Wi-Fi networks for the Department of Defense, major transportation hubs like airport terminals, and more than 2,200 U.S. multifamily communities that represent over 300,000 residents.

Peterson works with senior multifamily executives to navigate the complexities of cybersecurity at the property level. He follows a layered cybersecurity architecture and recommends this approach to protect data and safeguard assets.


For Peterson, security is far more than keeping the data closet under lock and key. Without a comprehensive security strategy at the property level, multifamily owners and operators needlessly put residents’ privacy at risk at a time when working at home and other activities are more important than ever.

“You should build your network around the idea of SMART. SMART is an acronym for Secure, Multiplatform, Analytics, Responsiveness, and Tiered. SMART puts into action what is required of an effective strategy,” he explains.

SMART prioritizes a layered security architecture that encrypts critical systems, features perimeter security policies and devices, backs up systems, and incorporates advanced technologies to safeguard against a threat.

“Now is the time for owners to take control of their Wi-Fi networks with a SMART approach. Security is the first step to our SMART network, where security experts work behind the scenes to deliver fast connectivity that is not just seamless, but also secure.”

Get Secure

Security starts with identifying a managed Wi-Fi network partner that offers residents a superior wireless experience along with a respected global security track record, such as Boingo. Peterson recommends the managed Wi-Fi network include a security gateway solution that addresses:

  • 24x7x365 threat monitoring through a global operations center
  • Unit security through VLANs that protect residents’ home networks and devices
  • Guest and common area security, such as device isolation, preventing unauthorized access to the residents’ devices
  • Dark web monitoring for activities that may be targeting your properties for attack
  • Penetration testing that accurately measures your network’s security vulnerabilities
  • Analytic reporting to better manage multiplatform device performance across the network
  • Malicious code detection and appropriate reaction
  • Secure passwords and authentication requirements to log into the network
  • Security training for all employees at a property, not just property managers
  • Community-wide building security, including leasing office, amenity and community spaces, and parking garages

Peterson says the arrival of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 only multiplies the need for advanced security measures because more devices—as in billions and billions— will be connected. “If you’re not thinking about security now, you should be. Get responsive. Take control of your security strategy by implementing the right Wi-Fi model that does the work for you. The risks and penalties for inaction are far too great.”

Game Over

Peterson weighs in on a recent incident centered around responsiveness.

“Through our 24x7x365 monitoring, our security experts saw a sudden surge of network activity. It set off all kinds of bells and whistles in our network operation. Was it a virus?”

In real time, Peterson’s team recognized a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack from bad actors on gaming portals in the network. With lightning-fast adjustment to DNS-based malware controls, Boingo was able to quickly neutralize the attack, and implement patches across more than 100 locations globally.”

That kind of real-time, 24x7 vigilance is required, Peterson advises. “There’s no such thing as peak time. Every time is peak time somewhere in the world.”

Enterprise risk management can’t ignore the importance of a secure, managed Wi-Fi network at multifamily communities. To request a complimentary risk assessment of your property’s network security system, contact [email protected].