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Special report: Energy infrastructure and security 2021

Energy infrastructure threats are growing. The recent attack on Colonial Pipeline highlights how malicious actors can prey on legacy software, and quickly leverage a single password, a few clicks, and ransomware to disrupt extensive infrastructure systems. Responsible for providing nearly 50% of all petroleum available on the East Coast of the US, in May of 2021, Colonial Pipeline was rendered temporarily unable to provide fuel to customers, leading to widespread fuel shortages and inflated gasoline prices.

A mess of nation-state threat actors, hacktivists and cyber criminals, combined with the energy sector’s expansive attack surface, decentralized cyber security leadership, and interdependencies between operational-technology and internet-based technology systems makes the energy sector particularly susceptible to cyber threats.

Power providers have long recognized the magnitude and gravitas of the situation. However, regulators may lack the talent required for the review of cyber security programs and budgets, and utility companies may stagnate on cyber security policies, systems, and protocols implementation or upgrades due to high costs that would be passed on to consumers. But some energy infrastructure groups are eager to improve security…

Energy infrastructure: Preventing threats

To prevent advanced cyber security threats, energy infrastructure groups may wish to weave a web of protection; pursuing a structured security approach that will significantly decrease cyber risk. Workforce security experts recommend:

  1. Identifying and mapping energy infrastructure assets and their connections, defining them by criticality.
  2. Determining the vulnerability levels of critical internet networks and systems.
  3. Assessing the maturity of the controls environment, which will enable a higher degree of effective threat management.
  4. Developing a framework that can protect key resources that depend on people, processes and technologies.

Energy sector supply chain security

Supply chain attacks are expected to increase by 4X in the remainder of 2021. Energy infrastructure partners inherently present supply chain risk to energy sector groups. Managing cyber risk in the electric power supply chain requires a combination of good governance, reliable supplier assessments, and cyber intelligence tools. In addition, energy infrastructure groups may want to perform business analyses and develop an infrastructure response plan that account for potential supply chain related attacks.

Supply chain security: Blockchain tracking

In Estonia, the majority of government operations have been digitized and have been put on blockchain. Encryption protocols within blockchain permit for data to be re-encrypted at a rate that outmaneuvers attempted hacker interception. So far, this blockchain safety net has not been hacked. If blockchain can track components as they move through the supply chain, could blockchain lead to more secure energy enterprises?

Maintaining energy industry integrity

As mentioned previously, energy sector operations require a layered and structured security approach. From network segmentation, to specialized OT and IT security and threat prevention technologies, to phishing awareness training, energy infrastructure groups should consider how to upgrade, advance, and deliver on stronger cyber security frameworks and systems. Energy infrastructure groups should also ensure that any cyber security program is built on a strong foundational operating model.

For more information about infrastructure and security, see our past coverage. Lastly, for more premium cyber security insights, analysis and resources, subscribe to our newsletter.

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