A Surge of Cybersecurity for the Energy Sector
With a rapid transition toward renewable energy, the energy sector has an increased reliance on technology. This makes it particularly vulnerable with regard to cybersecurity.
With a rapid transition toward renewable energy, the energy sector has an increased reliance on technology. This makes it particularly vulnerable with regard to cybersecurity because it depend on interconnected systems and digital technologies that make interactions a breeding ground for threats such as ransomware and phishing attacks.
Understanding Key Vulnerabilities
Although the energy industry, encompassing the electric-power and gas sectors, faces cybersecurity threats like those encountered by other industries, it also has specific vulnerabilities that require specific attention. A cyberattack against an energy provider can lead to widespread power outages, significant economic losses, and damage to physical infrastructure and compromise the safety of workers and the public. The widespread effect of a security breach is astronomical.
According to Statista, "The market will reach over $2 trillion by 2030." Given the expansive footprint of the energy sector, spanning across various domains and geographical locations, it becomes a prime target for cyberthreats. This, in turn, opens many potential entry points for threat actors.
In addition, as energy companies continue to embrace digital transformation and leverage emerging technologies to streamline operations, it also exposes the industry to a broader attack surface.
In fact, The World Economic Forum stated that “As one of the world’s most sophisticated and complex industries makes a multifaceted transition—from analog to digital, from centralized to distributed, and from fossil-based to low-carbon—managing cyber risk and preventing cyberthreats are quickly becoming critical to company value chains.”
Common Cybersecurity Threats to the Energy Industry
The critical role of the energy industry in powering economies and supporting essential services makes it an attractive target for cybercriminals seeking confidential information and financial gain, with 63%–95% of attacks contributing to the latter.
Common cybersecurity threats that the energy sector faces include ransomware attacks. The Colonial Pipeline attack of May 2021 is one of the more significant cyberattacks against oil infrastructure in the history of the US, wherein attackers gained access to Colonial Pipeline’s network via an employee’s stolen password to obtain 100 GB of data for a ransom of 75 bitcoin.
Supply chain attacks are another significant cybersecurity threat faced by the energy industry, whereby attackers exploit vulnerabilities in the supply chain ecosystem to gain unauthorized access to critical systems or compromise the integrity of software and hardware components. One of the more notable attacks in the energy sector was the SolarWinds attack of 2020, which enabled the attackers unauthorized access into the company’s systems by injecting trojan code into their Orion software updates.