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Cybersecurity: beyond the energy crisis

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No longer is the energy crisis limited to supply shortages due to environmental pressures or international trading scuffles; in today’s day and age, the crisis extends to the industry’s digital security.

Primarily, the concern is placed on the integrity of the systems used to manage the distribution, supply chains and processing of energy sources. And because the energy business is monopolised by private companies who pose as attractive targets to independent cyber criminals and opposing governments alike, it becomes all too important that cybersecurity ought to be a fundamental priority.

It’s no news that the industry is heavily reliant on complex internet systems to bind suppliers, consumers, and everyone in between. Individuals, businesses, and even a range of public sector services all have links to energy networks both physically and digitally, with varying degrees of openness and control. However, it is this level of complexity that lends itself to vulnerabilities, whether it's deliberate or not.

A study published by international insurers Marsh & McLennan identified the risks involved, highlighting that 54 per cent of energy executives were unaware of where their largest digital weaknesses lay. Further to that, 76 per cent of the executives recognised that a cyberattack would be the most damaging thing to their business and revenues due to the disruptions but failed to install adequate security measures.

We've even witnessed such disorders first-hand – simply think back to the 2008 explosion on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and, more recently, the 2017 chaos caused to AP Moller-Maersk’s operations in Odessa, Ukraine. In all cases, it's been evident that the disruption caused was a result of hacking computer lines, which cost the world millions of dollars in damage and repairs.

But why is the energy sector so high in terms of security risk? Because it's ingrained deeply in our social and economic infrastructure. A country can come to a complete stop if its power supplies are tampered with, and can put itself in a susceptible position to be manipulated by more hostile governments in the event of a politically-motivated cyberattack.

The companies behind the major names in the industry now employ cybersecurity specialists to maintain and update security protocols within its systems, but it is still the case that digital protection falls too low on the boardroom agenda. The mentality of ‘better safe than sorry’ ought to be the business-wide motto when it comes to cybersecurity, to prevent a national attack and disrupt trade protocols alike.

About Lee Hazell

Lee Hazell is a cyber security consultant with a keen interest in anything tech or security related. Follow Lee on .

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