Cyberterrorism – Are You At Risk?

The energy sector is a sitting duck when it comes to cyberattacks; don’t let your business be caught in the same pond.

According to Ludolf Luehmann, IT manager at Shell Europe, the petroleum industry needs to be  concerned about the growing risk of sophisticated hacker attacks  One of the most recent sources of concern is the Stuxnet computer worm, a powerful new virus that was launched in March or April of 2010. One of the industry’s biggest concerns centers around the fact that Stuxnet could be used to remotely open or close a valve — so a successful attack aimed at the oil industry could result in widespread environmental devastation, Luehmann said.

“If anybody gets into the area where you can control opening and closing of valves, or release valves, you can imagine what happens,” Luehmann said at the December 2011 World Petroleum Conference in Doha.  “It will cost lives and it will cost production . . . cause fires and cause loss of containment, environmental damage – huge, huge damage.”

Luehmann also stressed that a large-scale attack could drive oil prices up dramatically.  Since computers control almost all of the world’s oil production, an industrywide IT shutdown would cause oil prices to skyrocket.  Millions of gallons of oil would vanish from the market – and this would have a devastating effect on consumers.

“If they [hackers] could bring down one of the big players in the oil and gas market you can imagine what this will do for the oil price – it would blow the market,” says Riemer Brouwer, head of IT security at Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations.

Cybersecurity experts say that they’ve been able to stay one step ahead of hackers and avoid major incidents.  But that doesn’t mean that the industry is safe, they warn.  Most experts agree that, thanks to the Internet, the risk of an attack by cyberterrorists is greater than ever. Hackers are able to create viruses faster than cybersecurity teams can eradicate them, and there is a surplus of online video tutorials that can teach anyone how to create computer worms.

How capable is your company’s infrastructure to handle a cyberattack? Even if you’re not in the oil and gas industry, it’s imperative that you have strategies lined up to protect your organization’s sensitive information.  What is your company’s backup plan?

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