A Look Inside The Energy Industry’s Cybersecurity Resiliency


A lot of people are often surprised to learn that the energy industry is one of the most attacked sectors. You see, cybercrime has evolved and with it the industries that are falling prey to attacks. Today’s hackers are motivated by more than money. Their reasons for an attack may be sabotage, geopolitical, or aimed at selling mined data. The 2018 ENISA Threat Landscape Report put it this way, “The most likely reason for an organization to experience a targeted attack is now intelligence gathering, which is the motive for 96% of groups.”

The energy industry is not immune to cyber-crime. In fact, the United States Department of Energy (DoE) confirmed that between 2010 and 2014 over 150 successful attacks targeting American electricity grid systems were carried out. However, the sector stands out for its resilience in the face of trouble.

Just how do chief information security officers (CISOs) and chief digital information officers (CIOs) resolve matters and keep operations running? What steps are employed in the energy sector’s cybersecurity framework that can be adopted by other industries?

1.  Constant review and evaluation of systems

Management thought-leader Peter Drucker often said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Putting it into the cybersecurity context, if you don’t know how well your current systems are holding up against threats you’re not likely going to be able to come up with stronger solutions. Regular review and evaluation of systems are practices that are observed diligently as part of the energy sector’s cybersecurity efforts to combat cybercrime.

Founding father Benjamin Franklin also said, “Beware…a small leak will sink a great ship.” This is so poignant in the cybersecurity world. Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities that they can take advantage of. There is no room for system weaknesses in the energy sector, something CISOs, CIOs, and other IT managers are well aware of. Hence investment into next-generation software such as Cybeta’s Intrusion Detection Systems – CybetaOverwatch® and Threat Beta™.

2.  Training of company personnel on cybersecurity dangers

It’s not enough to simply tell company personnel that cybercrime exists. That’s why several energy companies are taking it upon themselves to conduct holistic training so that employees are fully aware of the scale and tactics used by cybercriminals today. For example, employees need to be sensitized on the common types of cyber-attacks which exist.

  • From malware which includes spyware, ransomware, worms, and viruses;
  • Phishing scams which can present themselves in the form of emails from seemingly credible sources
  • Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks which can occur when personnel log in to work networks from unsecured public Wi-Fi
  • SQL injection whereby cyber attackers insert harmful code into servers that use SQL prompting the servers to reveal sensitive information
  • To DNS Tunneling which involves the exfiltration of company data from a compromised network to the cyber criminal’s infrastructure

According to Datto’s Global State of the Channel Ransomware 2020 report, some of the leading causes of ransomware attacks included employees falling victim to phishing emails, not being adequately trained, and using weak passwords. So training helps to conscientize personnel and subsequently mitigates human error.

3.  Presence of comprehensive business continuity plans

CISOs are always prepared for the worst-case scenario. Because attacks happen on a daily basis having a post-attack plan is vital. Former CISCO CEO John Chambers put it this way, “There are two types of companies: those that have been hacked, and those who don’t know yet they have been hacked.”

Unlike other industries, the energy sector is able to pick itself up following cyber-attacks because of the comprehensive Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) solutions that are on standby.

It seems obvious that every business should have such a plan in place and yet in a study by Aviva, 59% of businesses claimed they had no BCDR whatsoever, 15% of companies in the study did not think they needed a BCDR and only 17% had a business contingency plan for recovery. Having a BCDR as part of the energy sector’s cybersecurity framework has proved invaluable when it comes to bouncing back.

Discuss your cybersecurity solutions with an expert

Are you worried about cyber threats and would like to discuss tailored cybersecurity solutions for your business with an expert? Cybeta is the home of new technologies and next-generation cybersecurity solutions. Our programs have one objective and that’s to identify, prioritize, and mitigate cyber threats prior to impact. Get in touch with us today.

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