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Experts: Cyberattacks Could Threaten Entire Countries, Not Just Energy Assets

Cyber attacks have grown bolder and increasingly creative and some of them target the shutting down of entire countries, not just disrupting oil and gas assets or stealing identities, according to industry experts.

“At some point (hackers) were after a quick buck, just wanting to make some money and steal a few identities,” Wael Fattouh, a partner with PwC in Saudi Arabia, said at the ADIPEC energy conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

“But now you have teams of people dedicated to coming up with creative ways of shutting down entire countries – not just companies,” CNBC quoted Fattouh as saying at the event.  

Experts have been warning for some time that oil and gas companies and entire countries that are big oil producers could be vulnerable to cyber threats. An analysis of data collected from 134 countries by the International Telecommunication Union has revealed that some of the world’s biggest oil producers—including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, and the UAE—are lacking in the cybersecurity department.  

In addition, oil companies put investment into boosting cyber security on the back burner during the worst of the oil price plunge in 2015 and 2016, as they were striving to adapt to the lower-for-longer oil prices with cost cuts, while hackers grew increasingly inventive and bolder at the same time.

Earlier this week, the ‘Regional Risks for Doing Business’ report by the World Economic Forum showed that executives cited cyber attacks as the number one risk to doing business in Europe, North America, and East Asia and the Pacific.  

“Cyber-attacks are seen as the number one risk for doing business in markets that account for 50% of global GDP. This strongly suggests that governments and businesses need to strengthen cyber security and resilience in order to maintain confidence in a highly connected digital economy,” said Lori Bailey, Global Head of Cyber Risk, Zurich Insurance Group, and Member of the Forum’s Global Future Council on Cybersecurity.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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