The value of business data has grown significantly in the past few years. As such, networks have become even more vulnerable than before. Likewise, the growing global demand for oil and gas has made industry players lucrative targets for cybercriminals. Dozens of companies have already experienced high-profile attacks.
The Colonial Pipeline attack is among the most prominent cybersecurity incidents perpetrated in recent years. The attack compromised the company’s network, shutting down operations. As a result, the East Coast got deprived of a critical pipeline that transports roughly 50% of its gas.
According to cybersecurity experts, threat actors will step up their attacks, hence the need for oil and gas companies to fortify their security posture. If they fail to do so, some of the nation’s most critical infrastructure will be left vulnerable to attacks.
What Cyber Threats Face the Oil and Gas Industry?
Oil and gas companies collect and store critical business and customer data. Ongoing digitization across the industry and the shift from centralized networks to distributed systems have made cybersecurity risk management essential to oil and gas companies.
Currently, most companies use outdated cybersecurity measures, including air-gapped systems. Often, the computers and systems are erroneously assumed to be air-gapped. These may become vulnerable targets for malicious actors. Strategies such as air-gapping computers don’t provide a robust defense against cyberattacks. They also make your networks increasingly vulnerable with time.
Internet-connected smart devices and systems are becoming more common in the oil and gas industry. These help companies collect real-time data about field operations, helping to optimize operations. Nonetheless, these devices and systems increase your company’s attack surface since they also store huge volumes of data about your operational setup.
For instance, a predictive pipeline maintenance tool may use data from IoT sensors, including the type of plating machines use to predict conductivity, corrosion resistance, and wear and tear. If hackers access this information, they can use it to breach your company’s cyber defenses and manipulate your supply system.
Increased investment in digitization and smart technology means that the challenges of managing current networks and systems will get even more pronounced. For this reason, cybersecurity risk management in the oil and gas industry will become even more essential.
What are the Possible Consequences of Poor Cybersecurity?
Anyone who’s involved in the oil and gas industry understands the dangers facing the industry. Unfortunately, the dangers often get downplayed. For this reason, it’s best to understand the potential consequences of a major attack incident.
Picture this; Colonial Pipeline supplies about 2.5 million gasoline barrels every day or 45% of the East Coast’s supply. After the ransomware attack, the company’s pipeline got shut down for six days. Operations didn’t resume for over a week as the company worked to resolve the issue. As a result, the cost of gasoline rose to a peak point in six years. Colonial Pipeline paid a $4.4 million ransom to regain control of its network.
The widespread implications of the Colonial Pipeline cyber-attack prove just how lucrative the oil and gas industry is to cybercriminals. Future attacks will have an even more devastating impact, including threatening fuel supply, skyrocketing gas prices, and disrupting normal operations in gas and oils companies.
Developing Cyber-Resilience in the Oil and Gas Industry
The oil and gas business is multifaceted. Each company faces unique threats and needs business-specific cybersecurity policies. Here are some industry-wide strategies that can fortify your cybersecurity posture.
Implement Company-wide Cybersecurity Policies
An effective cybersecurity defense requires company-wide implementation. With the growing digital transformation of the oil and gas industry, it’s best to facilitate business-wide security collaboration. As such, the IT team won’t get isolated and left solely responsible for ensuring cyber security. Everyone should be aware of the risks your organization faces and how to mitigate them. Your company’s cybersecurity policies should also get reviewed regularly to determine whether they’re working.
Strengthen Cybersecurity Operations
Oil and gas companies should implement a holistic cybersecurity risk management approach and ensure they have adequate resources, oversight, and access to manage their security risks. Furthermore, risk assessment and documentation should be critical components of the organization’s overall cybersecurity risk management strategy. They make it easier to monitor and report all your cybersecurity operations.
Security as a Design
The prevalence of cyber-attacks in the past few years fortifies the need to prioritize security as a design principle. Have security in mind right from the time you design your systems and networks. In doing so, potential risks will get factored in at every step of the design process. All departments should learn about the potential risks the organization faces and their responsibilities concerning cybersecurity risk management.
Oil and gas companies are more interconnected than they’d want to believe. If an attack hits one company, other companies will also suffer losses. Industry-wide collaboration and information sharing can go a long way in mitigating cyber-attacks. Implementing established security frameworks such as the ISO 27001 standard and the NIST cybersecurity framework should feature in your discussions.
Some of the best practices to incorporate into your operational setup include sharing threat information and best practices and collaborating with other industry players to develop effective cybersecurity defenses that cut across the board. Collaborating with cybersecurity practitioners working at other oil and gas companies will give you an idea of the defenses they’re using and whether they apply to you.
Make Cybersecurity Management a Priority Investment
Thanks to the growing threat of cyber-attacks in the oil and gas industry, companies should increase their cybersecurity investment. It’s particularly essential to invest in cybersecurity management leadership and enhance your defenses. When you compare the cost of cybersecurity investment and the potential losses, you’ll realize the investment is worth it.
Like other industries, the oil and gas industry faces accelerated threats from malicious actors. These cybercriminals understand just lucrative it is to breach an oil and gas company’s networks. It isn’t surprising that they’ve stepped up their attacks in recent years. companies need to incorporate cybersecurity management into their operational setup and build secure systems. It’s equally essential to align your cyber defenses with industry best practices.