Energy Companies Unready For Lethal Cyber Attacks

In a recent survey, over 80% of the industry professionals working in the power, renewables and oil and gas sectors who responded  believe that a cyber attack on the industry is likely to cause operational shutdowns and damage assets and critical infrastructure.

According to a report by the leading energy technology specialist DNV57% of energy professionals expect an incident to cause loss of life, while 85% foresee operational shutdown and 84% damage to critical infrastructure. Additionally, 74% expect an attack to harm the environment while 57% anticipate that it will cause loss of life.

While people working in the industry fear the worst, many companies in the power, renewables and hydrocarbon sectors are taking a “hope for the best” approach to cyber security rather than actively confronting the issue. The DNV report says two thirds of respondents reported “major changes” to strategies and systems following the spate of incidents, there was also a warning of widespread complacency.

The biggest threat could now come not directly to the IT systems of companies themselves, but to the operational technology (OT) that links and controls an increasingly interconnected energy system.

Trond Solberg, Managing Director, Cyber Security at DNV said: “As OT becomes more networked and connected to IT systems, attackers can access and control systems operating critical infrastructure such as power grids, wind farms, pipelines and refineries... Our research finds the energy industry is waking up to the OT security threat, but swifter action must be taken to combat it. Less than half (47%) of energy professionals believe their OT security is as robust as their IT security.”

DNV also contrasted the gap between a sharp focus on physical safety and a laxer approach to cyber security in some companies. DNV recommends that firms identify where critical infrastructure is vulnerable to attack. In particular, better workforce training is needed to ensure improved enforcement of cyber protective measures.

As countries look to end their reliance on fossil fuels, particularly those imported from Russia, hydrogen has been tipped to be the next biggest low-carbon solution. While hydrogen can effectively replace natural gas in many uses, the process as it exists now is not efficient and is expensive, making it difficult to scale to mass production. This has led companies to begin looking for new ways to make hydrogen power more cost-effective.

NATO has maintained for the past 15 years that a cyber attack on one of its members could constitute an assault, and equivalence with a kinetic attack has since been seen as the threshold for viewing it that way. 

DNV:      Process Engineering:     Recharge News:     Express:      Fortune:    GRAE Energy News:

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