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Published On: Mon, Dec 10th, 2018

Cyber Attacks on Energy Sector: Are There Reasons to Worry?

Cybersecurity remains one of the burning issues in 2018 with the average price of cybersecurity attack on business accounting to $2.4 million. For a regular user getting a basic antivirus protection would be enough. For a small business, studying a few more advanced solutions available in the market by reading say, avast antivirus review and kaspesky endpoint security review, to further protect its small network would also suffice. Large corporations have to spend millions of dollars on cybersecurity, and energy sector is not an exception.

photo/ Gerd Altmann via pixabay

Cyber-attacks against the energy infrastructure now come to us not from Hollywood films but from news feeds. Suffice it to recall the Stuxnet virus that attacked the Iranian nuclear power plant or the blackout in Ukraine in 2015, when, due to such cyber threats (at least, the current authorities of this country say so) more than 200 thousand consumers were left without electricity.  

How do attackers manage to hack networks of power facilities? In the first place, as usual, there is the human factor: use of identical passwords, the possibility of unauthorized access to the password log, etc. However, hackers have now shifted to more sophisticated attacks, and instead of targeting separate people’s devices, they try to hacks routers and servers to strike the whole network.

A joint report issued by the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the UK’s NCSC in spring 2018 also suggested that the energy companies should pay more attention to the proper protection of routers, switches and firewalls rather than on zero-day vulnerabilities.

Recent studies show that energy companies are well aware of the risks associated with cyberattacks, and are now constantly on alert. At the same time, when speaking of the worst case scenario, most executives could not give exact numbers of possible losses for their companies. The good news is around 75% of executives reported they had plans to invest more in cybersecurity to strengthen their company’s resistance to cyberattacks.

Current energy infrastructure’s vulnerability toward cyberattacks is indeed something all of us should be worried of, as in case of a successful attack on a large centralized infrastructure, a massive operational disruption would be something we’ll have to face.

The energy sector was reasonably late to take on digitalization. It’s great value for the national economy was one of the reasons, while lack of proper technologies that would work well particularly for the sector’s special need was another cause. With the growth of renewable energy and the development of machine learning the energy sector has been shifting more and more to digital, which allowed for better maintenance of the complex and decentralized greed.

At the same time, such a transition is a key reason for energy sector to now become a target for cyberattacks, which can provoke physical damage. A single attack on a nuclear, oil or coal plant may lead to loss of data and massive operational failure. Therefore, in addition to efforts at the state level, it is crucial that energy sector executives develop an action plan to prevent cyberattacks and mitigate the consequences in case of worst case scenario.

Author: Corey Reed

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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