Top 10 cyber security threats for oil and gas industry

With the exploitation of new cost-effective operational concepts, use of digital technologies and increased dependence on cyber structures, the oil and gas industry is exposed to new sets of vulnerabilities and threats, DNV GL writes in an article identifying the biggest cyber security threats to the oil and gas industry.

According to the company, cyber-attacks have grown in stature and sophistication, making them more difficult to detect and defend against, and costing companies increasing sums of money to recover from.

DNV GL is today delivering a cybersecurity study to the Lysne Committee, a body appointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security to assess the country’s digital vulnerabilities. DNV GL’s study reveals the top ten most pressing cyber security vulnerabilities for companies operating offshore Norway.

An international DNV GL survey of 1,100 business professionals found that, although companies are actively managing their information security, just over half (58%) have adopted an ad hoc management strategy, with only 27% setting concrete goals, the company has said.

“Headline cyber security incidents are rare, but a lot of lesser attacks go undetected or unreported as many organizations do not know that someone has broken into their systems. The first line of attack is often the office environment of an oil and gas company, working through to the production network and process control and safety systems,” says Petter Myrvang, head of the Security and Information Risk, DNV GL – Oil & Gas.

DNV GL says that while the study focused on operations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, the issues are equally applicable to oil and gas operations anywhere in the world.

The top ten cyber security vulnerabilities:

1. Lack of cyber security awareness and training among employees
2. Remote work during operations and maintenance
3. Using standard IT products with known vulnerabilities in the production environment
4. A limited cyber security culture among vendors, suppliers and contractors
5. Insufficient separation of data networks
6. The use of mobile devices and storage units including smartphones
7. Data networks between on- and offshore facilities
8. Insufficient physical security of data rooms, cabinets, etc.
9. Vulnerable software
10. Outdated and ageing control systems in facilities

DNV GL has said it believes cyber security vulnerabilities can be addressed through a risk-based approach, using the bow-tie model familiar in safety barrier management. This allows companies to identify the threats to and vulnerabilities of assets and operations and plan barriers to prevent incidents and mitigate the consequences of cyber risks. This includes procedures to maintain the barrier quality documented in performance standards.

“As all oil and gas process plants are now connected to the Internet in some way, protecting vital digital infrastructure against cyber-attacks also ensures safe operations and optimal production regularity,” says Trond Winther, head of the Operations Department, DNV GL – Oil & Gas.