Drilling for Answers: Cyberattacks on the Rise in the Oil and Gas Industry

Often when we hear buzzwords like botnet, malware and spear phishing (among many, many others), we tend to associate them with certain industries — retail, health care, banking. However, in a world driven by the constant effects of newer and better technology, all industries are being affected. Specifically, the oil and gas industry has seen an increase in cyberattacks.

The question is: How can organizations in the oil and gas industry protect themselves and prepare for the realities of their digital future? The most important thing they can do is learn the importance of being secure and the negative impact an attack can have on their companies.

According to a recent study, ABI Research predicted that oil and gas companies will spend $1.87 billion on cybersecurity by 2018. Thus, it is important that petroleum companies educate themselves on advanced threats and act now to prevent cyberattacks.

The Threat of Cyberattacks

One of the greatest dangers petroleum companies face is a breach of their sensitive information, which could result in a company shutting down, depending on how the exfiltrated information is used and/or distributed. Or what if a cybercriminal gained access to the control panel that operates the wells? Essentially, any cyberattack on a petroleum company will have a ripple effect throughout the industry, from the large companies down to your small, mom-and-pop water-hauling services.

The Ponemon Institute recently conducted a report sponsored by Siemens to “understand how companies in the oil and gas industry are addressing cybersecurity risks in the operational technology (OT) environment.” The study found that an average of 46 percent of all cyberattacks in the OT environment go undetected. Given that number, it’s only a matter of time before a devastating attack creates major turmoil in the industry.

Cybersecurity’s Future Lies in Cognitive

Imagine being able to get real-time information about SCADA data with the push of a button. With projects like Havyn powered by Watson in the works, the world of security is changing for all industries. Havyn is a voice-enabled virtual assistant who can gather information on security threats in seconds with a simple voice command. With its cognitive abilities and the rapid changes happening every day, the energy industry could use Havyn to monitor their security with ease. To find out more about Project Havyn, watch this video:

What’s the takeaway here? A wait-and-see approach to cybersecurity is not an appropriate course of action. You cannot just hope for the best and remediate attacks after the fact. Instead, the oil and gas industry needs to learn and implement strong security measures. Cyberattacks are happening more and more every day, so it is essential that the oil and gas industry works to maintain the security of their systems.

Read the complete report: Security attacks on industrial control systems

Share this Article:
Whitney Sizemore

Security Services Specialist, IBM

Student at Texas Tech University and IBM Security Services Specialist Intern with interests in Security Consulting, Watson Health, and the future of Oil & Gas with cognitive development.