Secure rooms: Taking privacy in the office to a whole new level

With cybersecurity threats on the rise, the private sector is taking a cue from national security protocol to protect corporate secrets

August 16, 2017

What happens in a SCIF stays in a SCIF — and has ever since the concept of the “war room” originated during World War II. Back then, the primary goal was to prevent eavesdropping or intrusion into an enclosed area where highly sensitive military plans needed to be discussed freely. More recently, after 9/11, the U.S. intelligence community put forth a very specific directive about the physical construction requirements for SCIFs and has since also updated requirements to spell out how to ensure maximum cybersecurity.

Today, demand for rooms that meet the requirements for SCIF designation is growing from the government and private sector alike.

“Secrecy in design and construction is mandatory in SCIF,” says Chris Gordon, National Director and Senior Vice President of JLL’s Project and Development Services Group for the Americas. “When we work with government agencies, we’re not even allowed to mention the location. Place names are purposefully kept non-descript, like the ‘controlled area,’ or the ‘classified area,'” he says.

Private companies are increasingly seeing the benefits too — especially those working in fields whose success is dependent on continually out-innovating their competitors. “The rooms can be used in many ways once built, from proposal writing and strategy sessions, to hands-on R&D and product testing,” says Gordon. “They can even be portable. But they all give companies piece of mind that work and discussions taking place inside the room are completely confidential.”

How one room can defend against multiple threats

With the continuing rise of cyber-threats, companies with highly sensitive information are investing heavily in privacy strategy. Globally, analysts predict the cybersecurity market will grow from USD$137.85 billion in 2017 to $231.94 billion by 2022, at an 11 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR). And cybersecurity is a critical piece of any SCIF design. Walls must be equipped with electromagnetic shielding and filtered power so that electronic devices cannot penetrate them. After all, the rise of IoT devices like connected lighting and smart projectors poses a continually bigger vulnerability for cyber-attack. A SCIF needs to be engineered to prevent remote hackers from breaking in anywhere, anytime.

There are also complex physical design requirements to meet in SCIF development, from compliance in sound transmission, to ensuring ductwork is barred so that no one can squeeze inside.

Ultimately a SCIF is designed to be the safest place for any information to be accessed, whether in conversation, or in a data file. No physical or digital eavesdropping allowed, period.

The rise in demand for SCIF rooms in the private sector is just beginning, says Gordon. But already cybersecurity firms across the U.S. have begun to invest in SCIFs, from San Antonio, Texas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado — as well as most any tech market with a government agency nearby to support. And as workplace design moves toward more open space, there could be a push in other sectors to make conference and huddle rooms even more secure.

“Intellectual property can be one of an organization’s most valuable assets, so we do expect to see more interest, from more types of companies, in developing more highly protected spaces like SCIFs,” says Gordon.

In today’s competitive global arena, innovation is a highly prized asset. To stay ahead of the crowd, every great strategy plan, or ahead-of-its-time product design, requires top-secret treatment.