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Energy Industry Warns of Jump in Cyberattacks, Severe Vulnerabilities

  • Energy industry executives are bracing up for an increase in cyberattacks over the next two years.
  • 84 percent of energy executives expect that cyberattacks will lead to physical damage to energy assets.
  • One of the most notorious attacks was the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline a year ago.

Energy industry executives are bracing up for an increase in cyberattacks over the next two years, research from DNV among 940 respondents from around the world has revealed.

According to the study, 84 percent of executives expect these will lead to physical damage to energy assets, while more than half—54 percent—expect cyberattacks to result in loss of human life. Some 74 percent of the respondents expect environmental damage as a result of a cyberattack.

What’s perhaps even more worrying, however, is that less than a third of respondents in the Norwegian risk management and quality assurance consultancy’s survey believe they know what to do in case their companies become targets of a cyberattack.

“Energy companies have been tackling IT security for several decades. However, securing operational technology (OT) – the computing and communications systems that manage, monitor and control industrial operations – is a more recent and increasingly urgent challenge for the sector,” said DNV’s cybersecurity managing director, Trond Solberg.

The last couple of years have seen several high-profile cyberattacks targeting energy infrastructure. One of the most notorious such attacks was the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline a year ago.

The attack on the piece of infrastructure that carries some 45 percent of the gasoline and diesel fuel that the U.S. East Coast consumes put cybersecurity in the spotlight, fueling concern about the state of energy infrastructure.

Renewable energy assets are not immune, either.

“Cyber risks to renewable energy assets are extremely acute,” Fieldsfisher partner and cybersecurity specialist James Walsh told Oilprice last year. “Many of these generation facilities will be directly connected to a regional or national grid and most now rely on smart systems, allowing their owners and operators to manage them digitally – all of which creates cyber risk interfaces.”

“Our research finds the energy industry is waking up to the OT [operational technologies] security threat, but swifter action must be taken to combat it. Less than half (47%) of energy professionals believe their OT security is as robust as their IT security,” DNV’s Solberg also said.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com


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