Cyber attacks have plagued the oil and gas industry for many years. An investigation by the Houston Chronicle uncovered more security vulnerabilities within energy companies than any other industry in America. Although no breach yet has been wholly devastating, this incredibly common occurrence is enough to invite serious concern.
Yet despite this real threat, a study by the independent data privacy research foundation Ponemon Institute found that there is still a serious readiness gap when it came to cyber protection. Researchers found that an astonishing 70% of oil and gas companies had been hacked just within the past year.
Without adequate protection, trade secrets and industrial operations are at risk. Because the oil and gas industry relies heavily on automation and a network of interconnected sensors, it innately exposes multiple points of vulnerability. To add to this exposure, many oil and gas companies run outdated systems.
Oil and gas companies must batten down the hatches on their trade secrets and take back their rightful level of security. A comprehensive path to protection can help combat existing vulnerabilities and prevent an inevitably devastating attack.
Opening Up the Conversation
The oil and gas industry, unlike healthcare, is not required to disclose cyberattacks. This opacity prevents common allies from sharing information openly and reduces the ability for business owners to grasp the gravity of the real threat before them. In order to protect the industry, individual businesses must begin an open discussion about cybersecurity and share experiences, safeguarding measures, and plans for prevention.
The Path to Protection
The first step in taking back security is to review the current state of protection and flush out any existing malware or viruses, discover vulnerabilities, and lock down networks and systems.
Vulnerability assessments: Vulnerability assessments review application coding systems, system configurations, and other areas that could be putting sensitive information at risk.
Penetration testing: Penetration testing takes existing systems through a simulated cyberattack to identify areas that could be exploited in a real-world scenario.
Application security: An application security review will look for unsecure application coding practices, database and web server misconfigurations, architectural weaknesses, and unhardened deployments.
Creating a Security Protocol
Creating a security protocol represents the final nail in the coffin for potential cyberattackers by offering a plan of action and routine management guidelines. By maintaining a foolproof security and risk management program, a business can continue to protect itself by instilling protective policies, performing routine reviews, outlining minimum system requirements, and securing system architecture to keep malicious attackers at bay. A security protocol helps implement a defensive strategy by including:
- Identification of critical systems and assets
- Cybersecurity policies and procedures
- System access control
- Automated security monitoring
- Firewalls, detection systems, and security software
- Staff training on good cybersecurity practices
- Performance and documentation of routine cybersecurity assessments
- An incident response plan
- Implementation of a communication process for dispersing information to key industry governing bodies and industry allies
Within the oil and gas industry, security breaches and hacks can cause serious damage not only to the business, but to the U.S. economy at large. There is no time like the present to begin protecting the oil and gas industry from the malicious capabilities of highly skilled and increasingly sophisticated cyberattackers. It’s critical that cybersecurity defenses are implemented, vulnerabilities are outlined, and breaches are better communicated so that this vital industry remains adequately protected against these prevalent and pernicious threats.