When it comes to cyber security in the energy sector, it is as vital as any other critical area. The 2021 Colonial Pipelines cyberattack is a prime example of how cybercriminals can bring an entire nation’s supply chain to a standstill by targeting an energy firm. Consequently, it’s high time to take necessary measures to avoid energy sector cyber threats and improve on overall prevention tactics.
Why Is Cybersecurity Important for The Energy Sector?
Cybersecurity is critical for the energy sector as it drives almost all other industries, whether defense, education, ecommerce, or households. Any cyberattacks on energy firms, whether electricity, water, or oil companies, directly affects the operational capacity of other organizations and businesses.
Unfortunately, energy industries often ignore implementing adequate security measures to prevent cyberattacks. Therefore, the key reason behind most cybersecurity threats in the energy sector is poor security.
According to reports, in 2021, around 77% of energy firms in the USA are vulnerable to ransomware attacks, mainly because of exposed or leaked passwords.
Today’s energy sector cyber threats are not confined to data or networking damages. Instead, the FBI notes that cybercriminals tend to wage ‘time-sensitive’ or ‘mission-critical’ cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure. Such attacks not only force victim firms to pay hefty ransom amounts but also create a chaotic situation for all related organizations by triggering operational issues.
How To Mitigate Energy Sector Cyber Threats?
Considering the expansive nature of most cybersecurity threats targeting the energy sector, devising broad-scope remediation measures that address various sophisticated infrastructure components is critical. From the most elementary best practices, like protecting web applications with WAF and setting up strong passwords, to the more advanced network security solutions, energy industries must design proactive security strategies to repel most attacks.
Of course, that doesn’t mean compromising the usual functionalities. Energy firms must craft well-balanced preventive and remedial plans for effective cybersecurity without impacting operations. Here is a quick list of some approaches.
Applying hardware authentication can serve as the first line of defense for critical infrastructure, mainly distributed OT networks. This approach uses hardware-based user authentication, following a password login, to access a resource. Although secondary authentication can be achieved via software-based authenticators as well, hardware authentication helps eliminate internet-related risks, assuring authorized access only.
Using VDN Technology
Leveraging the power of encryption, VDN (Virtual Dispersive Networking) is another effective strategy against most energy sector cyber threats. Specifically, VDN involves dividing the network message into separate parts and encrypting each piece. This way, the data securely transmits to the destination, avoiding MiTM attacks. Even if a sophisticated attacker succeeds in unencrypting one part of the message, it won’t include the entire message data.
Applying User-Behavior Analytics (UBA)
Using UBA not only helps protect the energy sector infrastructure but can also facilitate cybersecurity in other sectors. As the term implies, UBA includes identifying the user interaction pattern with a target system. Monitoring such behaviors generates timely alerts upon detecting suspicious or unauthorized activity. While it’s a sophisticated technique, organizations can seek assistance from professional security services like Indusface to utilize this strategy.
The energy sector constitutes the backbone of every country, empowering all other sectors. Therefore, this essential niche demands IT professionals’ utmost attention and critical thinking to prevent cybersecurity threats. While most energy sector cyber threats are avoidable, the lack of adequate security implementations is the key reason behind the increase in such threats. Even if firms implement remediation measures, the recent cyberattack sophistications render those measures ineffective.
Government agencies inevitably need to devise effective and proactive security mechanisms and ensure adequate implementation across all entities in the energy sector to prevent common cyber threats. Such measures not only prevent the risks but also alleviate the extent of damages in the wake of an unfortunate cyberattack.