Oil and Gas Industry

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The oil and gas industry is a critical sector that relies heavily on technology to manage a vast network of global energy assets and operations. However, this reliance on technology also makes the industry vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. In 2022, the industry experienced 21 global ransomware attacks, making it the 5th most affected sector. Therefore, industrial security is crucial for mitigating the risks and protecting critical infrastructure sectors such as oil and gas.

The US Government Accountability Office has detailed significant cybersecurity risks to offshore oil and gas infrastructure, including those posed by threat actors, vulnerabilities, and potential impacts. The operational technology (OT) used to monitor and control physical equipment on sites also have multiple security flaws. These flaws could allow attackers to remotely control critical safety functions, posing a severe threat to operational resilience. Outdated infrastructure, including old surveillance systems, may exacerbate these risks by having fewer robust cybersecurity measures in place.

The US Department of the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is being criticized for not taking appropriate measures to address cybersecurity risks in the oil and gas sector, despite advisories issued by CISA highlighting operational technology vulnerabilities. The oil and gas industry must prioritize industrial security measures to mitigate digital transformation risks, ensure compliance, and enhance operational resilience.

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Cyberattacks Security Protection for Oil & Gas Industry

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Cyberattacks on the Energy Industry in the US

The energy sector faces five major cyber threats.

Supply Chain Attacks

In supply chain attacks, threat actors access an organization's network through a third-party vendor or supplier, potentially compromising sensitive information. The Colonial Pipeline attack was a significant supply chain attack caused by a compromised VPN account, and the attackers stole data and demanded ransom.

A ransomware attack disabled Baltimore City computers in May 2019, causing millions of dollars in damages and disrupting daily life for weeks. The attackers targeted not just IT networks but also critical infrastructure. These incidents demonstrate that cybercriminals are willing to target any vulnerable system, regardless of its impact on daily life or critical infrastructure.

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The Biggest Attacks in the Oil and Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry has been a target of cybercriminals due to the critical nature of energy infrastructure, as it is crucial to modern economies. Among the most significant cyber-attacks in the industry is the DarkSide attack on Colonial Pipeline in May 2021. The attack forced the largest oil pipeline operator in the US to shut down its 5,500 miles of pipeline, causing fuel shortages and panic buying in several US states. The CEO of Colonial Pipeline authorized a ransom payment of US$ 4.4 million to DarkSide, which drew a massive amount of attention to the vulnerability of the US energy sector.

Cybersecurity threats in the oil and gas industry are a global problem, with significant attacks occurring in other countries, including:

  • The Triton malware attack in 2017 targeted the safety systems of Saudi Aramco.
  • The Ryuk ransomware attack in 2019 disrupted ExxonMobil's downstream business.
  • Petrobras was affected by the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, which impacted at least 100,000 organizations across 150 countries.
  • In 2020, the Ekans ransomware attack targeted Chevron's Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and Operational Technology (OT).
  • In 2019, the LockerGoga ransomware attack affected all 35,000 employees of Norsk Hydro across 40 countries.

These attacks on critical infrastructure and businesses worldwide highlight the increasing cyber threat to the industry.

Although these attacks did not directly affect the US, they still have ripple effects that can impact the global oil and gas industry. Disruptions in production and supply can cause price spikes and shortages that can affect the US economy and consumers. Therefore, the industry must prioritize cybersecurity and take proactive measures to prevent and mitigate cyber threats.

Strengthening Cyber Resilience

Organizations must develop the ability to withstand and protect themselves against cyber-attacks to achieve cyber resilience. Detecting, responding to, and recovering from an attack is crucial in achieving cyber resilience. Cyber resilience is essential for any enterprise as it provides improved cybersecurity, enhances brand reputation, and ensures business continuity.

Several organizations have launched initiatives to promote cyber resilience in the oil and gas sector, recognizing its significant role in the global economy. Any disruption in the sector's operations can negatively affect fuel prices, supply chains, and large-scale manufacturing.

The Cyber Resilience in Oil and Gas initiative is a multistakeholder program that brings together senior executives and practitioners from the oil and gas and ICT industries to foster collaboration and information sharing. The initiative launched the Cyber Resilience Pledge at the Annual Meeting in Davos in 2022. The pledge comprises six guiding principles for cyber resilience specific to the oil and gas industry. It aims to assist boards of directors in taking action on cybersecurity within their organizations.

The initiative aimed to strengthen industrial security by developing various resources and tools, including a framework for managing third-party cyber risks. This has become a critical issue as the oil and gas industry increasingly uses third-party vendors and service providers. The framework helps companies assess and mitigate risks to protect their digital infrastructure and assets.

Another focus of the initiative is the zero-trust model in cybersecurity, which provides a set of guiding principles for successful implementation. BlastShield, a tool that aligns with these principles, continuously monitors and verifies access to critical systems and data, helping organizations prevent cyber attacks.

The initiative also introduced a guidebook to aid executives in integrating cybersecurity and resilience into corporate processes and green technology design while navigating the energy transition.

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Get Involved

Investing in BlastShield is a proactive step towards building a cyber-resilient organization. Compared to other approaches to OT cybersecurity, BlastShield offers a more straightforward software-defined perimeter (SDP) solution that puts the power of industrial security back into the hands of operators.

By using BlastShield, companies can avoid the complexity of layered network technologies and benefit from simple and intuitive security orchestration. This makes BlastShield the best choice for any organization aiming to enhance its cyber resilience and protect itself against cyber attacks.

Oil & Gas Industry Brief

The oil and gas industry heavily relies on technology to control and manage critical operations such as drilling, refining, and distribution. A successful cyber attack on the energy industry's OT systems can have severe consequences, including power outages, environmental damage, and harm to workers, leading to significant economic and societal costs.

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