The Energy Industry and Cyber Security

What can the energy industry do about its cyber security vulnerabilities?

The energy industry faces a continuous threat of data breaches and cyber attacks. These IT disasters can stem from multiple sources, including:

  • Cyber criminals seeking to steal sensitive data or cause disruptions to operations.
  • Activists making a political statement with a cyber attack.
  • Internal errors from employees.

The results include steep financial losses, prolonged downtime, infrastructure breakdowns, and a loss of trust from customers, vendors, investors, and business partners. Certain attacks can also compromise the security and economy of an adjacent region or even the nation as a whole.

Is the energy industry prepared to meet these serious threats?

Recently, Energy Business Review published an article discussing the energy industry’s preparedness gap. Substandard preparedness isn’t limited to the energy industry; however, given the potential consequences of an attack on energy enterprises, it’s alarming.

The industry would need to shore up its performance in various areas, including:

  • Risk analysis and management, to better determine the likelihood of different attack vectors and how to best allocate resources towards strong cyber defense strategies.
  • Cooperation between different groups, including energy companies, government organizations, and cyber security leaders. The idea is to exchange information about cyber threats, improve standards for cyber security, lay out critical guidelines, and partner up when necessary to prevent or mitigate attacks.
  • Proper security for smart machinery (such as industrial sensors) and other Internet of Things devices, which often aren’t built or configured with sufficient consideration for cyber security.
  • Widespread cyber security training, as many attacks result from an employee incautiously downloading a corrupted email attachment, clicking on a malware-infected link, or accidentally supplying sensitive data to unauthorized parties.

As new technologies emerge, they’ll bring the possibility of new kinds of attacks. Heightened preparedness, round-the-clock monitoring of systems, cooperation between leaders and experts, and the promotion of a cyber security culture in organizations will go far in reducing the chances of a serious attack.