Cyber Threats for the Oil and Gas Industry

This article will review the various cyber threats for the oil and gas industry.

The Digital Revolution is Creating New Issues

Cybersecurity is paramount for the oil and gas industry as it plays a critical role in securing the sensitive data and operational technology that enables the industry to extract, produce, and transport oil and gas. The oil and gas industry is a prime target for cyber-attacks due to the high value of the data and systems they control. The industry’s production, transportation, and refining processes rely heavily on automation and control systems connected to the internet, making them vulnerable to cyber threats. Moreover, as the industry becomes increasingly digital, the volume of sensitive data stored electronically also increases, making it more vulnerable to cyber theft. As a result, implementing robust cybersecurity measures is essential for protecting the industry from cyber threats and ensuring the safety and continuity of its operations.

Why are Cyber Attacks Increasing in the Oil and Gas Industry?

Cyber attacks on the oil and gas industry are growing because the sector is becoming increasingly dependent on technology and automation. This increased reliance on technology makes the sector more vulnerable to cyber attacks, which can cause significant disruptions to operations and potentially have severe consequences for the industry and the broader economy. Additionally, the oil and gas sector is a high-value target for attackers due to the sensitive and valuable information it holds, such as intellectual property, financial data, and data on critical infrastructure. As the industry adopts more digital technologies, cyber attacks on the sector will likely continue to increase.

Common Types of Cyber Attacks on the Oil and Gas Industry

Five common cyber attacks on the oil and gas industry include:

  1. Phishing: This type of attack involves sending emails or messages that appear to come from a legitimate source in an attempt to trick the recipient into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware.
  2. Ransomware: This type of attack involves malware that encrypts the victim’s files and demands payment in exchange for the decryption key.
  3. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs): These are long-term, targeted attacks often conducted by nation-states or other highly-skilled actors. APTs typically focus on stealing sensitive information, such as intellectual property or data on critical infrastructure.
  4. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks: These attacks involve overwhelming a website or network with traffic to make it unavailable to legitimate users.
  5. Industrial Control Systems (ICS) attacks: These attacks target the control systems that operate industrial processes, such as those used in oil and gas production. ICS attacks can cause physical damage and disruption to operations.

Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

A supply chain attack on an oil and gas company is a cyber attack that targets the company’s suppliers, vendors, or other partners to gain access to the company’s systems and sensitive information. This can be done by compromising the security of a supplier or vendor and then using that access to move deeper into the company’s network.

 The attackers may use various methods to compromise the security of a supplier or vendor, such as phishing emails, malware, or other forms of social engineering. Once they have access, they can steal sensitive information, disrupt operations, or even sabotage equipment.

This type of attack can be particularly dangerous for the oil and gas industry because the sector relies heavily on a complex network of suppliers and vendors, many of which may have access to critical infrastructure and sensitive information. By targeting a supplier or vendor, an attacker can gain access to the company’s entire network, which can lead to significant disruptions and financial losses.

Recent Cyber Attacks

There have been several cyber attacks on oil and gas companies over the past few years, but here are a few worth remembering:

2022 European Oil Refining Ports

The spring of 2022 marked a historic moment when an unidentified foreign hacker caused chaos and disruption in the European Oil Refining Ports and Storage Facilities. As a result, the entire Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp region was affected in what has since been determined to be one of the largest cyber attacks ever seen. This sophisticated attack shut down numerous ports, resulting in supply disruptions worldwide, with billions of Euros being lost in the process. Thankfully, authorities were able to quickly contain and investigate the situation while intensely searching for ways they could protect from similar attacks happening again. Though we may never know exactly why it happened or who is behind it, this incident is an eye-opener for governments, corporations, and bodies across the world who need an effective strategy against cyber threats so that their operations are protected at all times.

2021 Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack

The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack occurred in May 2021. A cybercriminal group known as DarkSide successfully breached the network of Colonial Pipeline, a major oil pipeline operator in the United States. The attackers used ransomware to encrypt the company’s data and demanded a large payment in exchange for the decryption key.

As a result of the attack, Colonial Pipeline was forced to shut down its operations, leading to fuel shortages and price increases in several parts of the country. In addition, the pipeline transports about 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast, so the shutdown impacted the U.S. economy significantly.

The company eventually paid the ransom, and the pipeline was restarted after several days. However, the incident highlighted the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to cyberattacks and the potential consequences of such attacks. The incident also prompted the government to take action to address the risk of similar incidents in the future.

2017 Triconex Controller Attack at Saudi Aramco

In August 2017, Saudi Arabian oil company Saudi Aramco experienced a cyberattack that targeted its Triconex industrial control systems (ICS). The attack caused a shutdown of the company’s production systems, resulting in the loss of an estimated 50% of the company’s daily production output. The attackers used a variant of the malware known as Triton, which specifically targets Triconex controllers. It is believed that the attackers were able to gain access to the ICS network through a third-party vendor’s system and then used the malware to manipulate the controllers and cause the shutdown.

The attack on Saudi Aramco became significant because it demonstrated that ICSs, which are used to control and monitor industrial processes, can be targeted and manipulated by cybercriminals, potentially causing physical damage and disruption to production.

Cybersecurity Should be a Priority

Consider the vast scope of the oil and gas industry: millions of miles of pipes, tankers traveling between ports, a variety of Fortune 500 refineries and production sites, as well as their vendors and partners. It’s clear why cybersecurity is so essential for this sector. Any disruption can have major socioeconomic consequences due to cyber threats ranging from a data leak to tampering with control systems used to measure safety levels in refineries. The oil and gas industry must do its utmost to protect itself from these cyberattacks by adopting practices such as rigorous authentication processes and regular security audits. Otherwise, it risks losing proprietary information, customers’ trust, business opportunities – and potentially even lives.