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How to Combat Cybersecurity Attacks in the Oil and Gas Industry With Digital Solutions
Recent cybersecurity breaches have highlighted the vulnerability of even the country’s most critical systems. In 2020, for example, numerous U.S. government agencies and thousands of public and private entities worldwide were targeted by cyberattacks in the SolarWinds scandal.
According to MIT, the digital transformation undergone by the oil and gas industry brought many benefits but also caused some vulnerabilities. There are no fast and easy solutions to prevent cyberattacks; one way to improve cybersecurity is by strategically increasing digital capabilities and control.
Companies that increase their use of digital solutions (such as AI and encryption) will be able to better protect themselves from oil and gas cybersecurity threats.
Causes of the Widespread Cyberattacks on the Oil and Gas Industry
Like with other industries, cyberattackers have targeted the oil and gas industry more heavily in recent years. There are a few different factors contributing to the increased number of attacks.
For one, our nation is currently focused on delivering an ample supply of oil and gas to other countries (to supplement the supply of oil that European governments can access after being cut off by Russia due to the Ukraine war). We’re trying to deliver as much oil and gas as possible to Europe so that they have enough energy to keep functioning, trading, and running.
During the process, companies across the U.S. have contracted to conduct liquefied natural gas (or LNG) trade with Sweden and Finland. Unfortunately, this makes the U.S. a big target for hackers who would much prefer we keep our resources at home.
In addition to attacks from Russia, there are many bad actors elsewhere abroad and here in the U.S. that are breaching security while seeking ways to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. The fact that we are deploying an array of outdated operations and devices just makes our systems even more vulnerable to attacks.
Although the industry has done an excellent job of closing gaps, it has not taken a deep enough look into advanced cybersecurity measures. Leaders need to understand the true depth of the industry’s security issues in order to take the proper precautions that will keep their companies safe.
Large-Scale Impacts of Cyberattacks on The Industry
In 2020, the SolarWinds scandal was uncovered and surprised everyone. This breach revealed numerous cyberattacks against multiple government agencies and thousands of entities in the public and private sectors worldwide.
Federal officials confirm that a successful cyberattack on the oil and gas industry could cause severe economic, environmental, and physical harm. In fact, recent attacks over the years have had several large-scale impacts on the industry, including:
- Disruptions to operations: A number of these attacks have led to disruptions in the processes of oil and gas companies. In some cases, production has been halted entirely. This can have a significant impact on the company’s bottom line, as well as on the global supply of oil and gas.
- Data loss: Another common effect of these attacks is data loss. Lost data can include vital business information and sensitive personal data about employees and customers. Cyberattacks can also lead to the theft of trade secrets or other confidential information.
- Damage to equipment: In some cases, cyberattacks can physically damage equipment. This can be costly to repair and can cause further disruptions to operations.
- Environmental damage: Some cyberattacks have caused ecological damage due to oil spilling out into open waters.
These are just some of the large-scale impacts cyberattacks can have on the oil and gas industry. It is clear that these attacks can pose serious threats to businesses and consumers alike.
Digital Solutions You Can Use to Increase Cybersecurity
Given the devastating consequences that a cyberattack on the industry could have, oil and gas companies must take immediate action to increase cybersecurity.
It is essential to have a plan in place to ensure the organization can continue functioning without issue. This can include:
- Implementing multifactor authentication: This security measure requires users to provide more than one form of authentication to access systems and data. This can help prevent unauthorized access if one factor is compromised.
- Employing AI: Artificial Intelligence is fast becoming an indispensable tool of modern security. AI processes can analyze cyberthreats and provide real-time, actionable insights. Algorithms can even be used to help predict some cyberattacks.
- Encrypting data: Data encryption is a process of transforming readable data into an unreadable format. This can help protect sensitive data from being accessed by unauthorized individuals.
- Creating backups: Backups provide copies of critical information if primary data is lost or corrupted. This can help minimize downtime and keep operations running smoothly following a cybersecurity incident.
- Training employees: Employees should be trained on cybersecurity best practices, such as recognizing phishing emails and understanding proper password management. This can help reduce the likelihood of human error, which can lead to cybersecurity incidents.
Another essential measure is to install and properly configure antivirus and intrusion detection software. These tools might seem simple, but they can help detect and block malicious activity of many kinds, making it harder for attackers to succeed.
Properly configuring these tools can be challenging, so it’s essential to work with experienced IT professionals who understand the unique security needs of the oil and gas industry (and individual companies). With the proper precautions in place, your company can protect itself from costly cyberattacks.
Despite the frequent and tangible threats to the oil and gas industry, many companies are still not doing enough to protect themselves from cyberattacks. Encrypting data, using intrusion detection software, and implementing AI cybersecurity are critical to ensuring the industry’s success by preventing future attacks.
Preparation is half the victory, after all. The oil and gas industry must be ready or risk significant disruptions, losses, and frustration. Start getting ready today.
Senior Client Partner, Energy
Jerry Longsworth is a Senior Client Partner in Energy with a focus on delivering innovative technology solutions for clients. His expertise includes Digital Twin, IoT, Data & Analytics, Agile & DevSecOps, IMDC, Cloud Business Process Transformation, and Cybersecurity VADR Assessments. With a proven track record in delivering results, Jerry is a valuable asset in helping organizations achieve their business objectives through digital transformation, data-driven insights, and cybersecurity best practices.
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