Rising Cyber Security Threats in O&G
The Middle East region is becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats despite the advances in cyber security technologies and practice. The region’s defences need to look into this continually developing issue and address the weaker links in its digital environment.
Growing number of cyber attacks in the energy infrastructure arises from its very own digital revolution, widespread internet connectivity, weak regulations, low cyber awareness, and security skills shortage. On the other hand, the complexity of attacks and sophistication of malicious actions in cyberspace continues to increase.
Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil company, witnessed the worst hack ever in 2012. In a matter of hours, 35,000 computers were partially wiped or totally destroyed. Without a way to pay them, gasoline tank trucks seeking refills had to be turned away. Saudi Aramco's ability to supply 10% of the world's oil was suddenly at risk. It took 6 months for the company to bring its system back online.
Oil and gas sector is the most desirable target for cyber attacks, which can cause serious economic and infrastructure disruptions. Cyber security breaches in the Middle East are widespread and attacks against OT have increased. In the past year, nearly 70 percent of oil and gas organizations have endured security compromises resulting in confidential information loss and disrupted operations.
Advances in oilfield technology and smarter devices have made data more readily available and has simultaneously led to the myriad possibilities of security breaches.
The convergence of digital technology with existing supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) infrastructure or Operational Technology (OT) has increased the risk of infiltration into an organization’s critical infrastructure, thereby disrupting operational processes.
SCADA infrastructure are running legacy systems that often go undetected and connecting these OT environments to the external Internet make them extremely vulnerable to cyber attacks.
It’s evident that more must be done to protect oil and gas companies from cyber threats. Increasing the deployment rate of technology, which can protect, monitor and manage convergence and additional security measures in order to harden control networks can defend against many attacks.
Technical expertise, purpose-built cyber solutions, security analytics and prioritizing cyber security investments are the necessary steps forward.