Cyber security threats have increased, and energy and utility companies are high value targets due to a number of factors:
- the valuable oil and gas exploration information they hold
- the critical infrastructures they support
- utilities’ customer information and financial processing systems
- a highly competitive industry which places a premium on competitor intelligence
- controversial operations, which could attract 'hacktivists'.
The energy and utilities sector has already faced a wide variety of highly sophisticated cyber attacks, including Nightdragon, Stuxnet and Shamoon. In particular, oil and natural gas companies have been hit by a persistent targeted spear-phishing campaign which lasted for many months.
Of specific interest to attackers are the industrial control systems (such as process control, automation or SCADA systems) that operate mission and safety critical infrastructures such as oil and gas drilling; production refining; electricity generation, transmission and distribution; and portable and waste-water networks.
The security risks will only increase as the sector deploys new and more powerful technology through initiatives such as smart grids and digital oilfields.