The oil and gas industry: potential cyberthreats and how to mitigate them
The oil and gas sector has always been a target of both physical attacks and cyberattacks. However, in recent years the threat of cyberattacks has evolved to become more sophisticated and persistent.
The oil and gas sector is attacked relentlessly by hackers. But you don’t often hear about them. For many, the most disruptive security incident in recent memory occurred in May 2021. In this ransomware attack, hackers shut down a major North American pipeline (or the Colonial Pipeline) responsible for supplying almost half of the American East Coast’s petroleum.
However, from a global perspective, this is yet another incident in a series of attacks on digitally connected critical infrastructure. For example, the NotPetya cyberattack on a Ukrainian utility company shut down most of the country’s power grid in 2017.
Over the years, the oil and gas sector leveraged operational technology control systems linked to physical energy assets and IT networks to improve productivity. Today, we have taken it a step further by incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and big data.
As energy companies become increasingly connected, so does the risk of cyberattacks, ransomware attacks, and more. While governments around the world are working on developing new policies, the oil and gas companies can’t afford to wait any longer.
In this scenario, the energy sector must immediately step up its efforts to secure all critical energy systems. To mitigate risk, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Cyber Resilience in the Oil and Gas Industry: Playbook for Boards and Corporate Officers shares six best practices to enhance security throughout the value chain and the entire energy ecosystem.
The WEF’s six cybersecurity and resilience principles are industry-specific and drawn from extensive shared real-world experience.
1. Cyber-resilience governance
Robust cybersecurity significantly depends on extensive participation from everyone within the organization. Whenever everyone is on the same page, you have a better chance of defending your infrastructure.
This means that all efforts must be synched and aligned. You must also set clear responsibilities and accountability. This approach can help the oil and gas sector become highly secure and successful in the long term.
2. Resilience by design
Build robust security from the ground up. This means adding cybersecurity as a design parameter. This approach helps make security a part of corporate culture and can go a long way to improve outcomes.
3. Corporate responsibility for resilience
Corporate responsibility for resilience starts with acknowledging the fact that sophisticated and frequent threats will probably continue to acerate and escalate. As such, companies must examine their cybersecurity posture, potential cyber risks and take responsibility to manage those risks efficiently and effectively.
4. Holistic risk management approach
Like any other security threat, the comprehensive management of cybersecurity risks and cyber threats demands extensive budgets, resources, and accountability. It also requires a strong directive from upper management.
When it comes to the oil and gas sector, not taking a proactive approach to find and mitigate risks across the value chain may have dire consequences. For example, one weak link in the value chain can bring the whole production to a standstill. As a result, the time is now for the industry to act on cybersecurity.
5. Ecosystem-wide collaboration
When you have third-party partners across the value chain, your weakest link might lie away from your organization. This makes it vital to thoroughly vet your partners to ensure that they follow cybersecurity best practices.
You must also share cyber threat information, tweak, improve your cybersecurity posture regularly, and encourage the whole sector to mature to ensure stability.
6. Ecosystem-wide cyber resilience plans
Cyberattacks will continue to be relentless and grow increasingly sophisticated. This makes it vital to build resilience plans that will help mitigate the damage of a potential attack.
In this case, the industry must actively engage in exercises to help test and improve cyber defenses. What’s more, it should also include instructions on how to interact with industry partners.
Some cybersecurity best practices you can use to fortify your security posture include:
- Conducting cybersecurity awareness and training workshops
- Engaging in regular security audits
- Leveraging encryption technologies
- Partnering with an ethical hacking service
- Taking a zero-trust approach
Going forward, the oil and gas sector must actively work on building robust cyber resilience across their organization and value chain. The industry must also evolve with the threat and actively take steps to reduce their risk exposure.
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