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Offshore Drill Rigs at Threat from Computer Viruses

2010 was the year that BP’s Deepwater Horizon infamously blew up and sank in the Gulf of Mexico releasing millions of gallons of oil into the ocean. The principle cause turned out to be a mechanical failure, which led to a review of regulations and more stringent guidelines throughout the offshore industry; however mechanical regulations are not the only threat to drilling platforms.

In 2010 another offshore rig faced a potential disaster that under different circumstances could have led to a huge oil spill. After leaving the construction yard in South Korea the drilling rig in question was attacked by a malicious virus that spread through all of its computer systems. Even the systems controlling the blowout preventer were infected, which could have led to an explosion had the rig actually been drilling.

Related article: Oil Explorers Beware: Hackers Are Eyeing What You Know

Several offshore rigs have been infected by viruses, forcing shut downs for as much as 19 days whilst engineers work to remove the problems. So far no catastrophes have actually been caused by computer malware, and this is probably the reason why regulators pay little attention to this threat, but it does not lessen the threat.

Cyber threats are becoming increasingly more dangerous to energy companies and offshore rigs, both through targeted attacks and random malware. The problem is that many rig computer systems are complex in nature, but have very poor security and software; in fact some of the viruses that take down an entire rig, would cause an iPhone no trouble whatsoever.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com


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