Cyber Security for Energy and Utilities
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With the recent talk of energy and utilities in the news, we have come to see just how pivotal and fragile these services are; they play a vital role in the way we live and operate.
This infrastructure is vulnerable to threats and cyberattacks and due to now, widespread geopolitical uncertainty, protecting these infrastructures from cyber criminals is even more important than it has ever been.
Aside from keeping sensitive data protected, cybersecurity must equally be about protecting operational processes and functions to keep the power on and water flowing.
BlueFort is the UK’s leading Cyber Security solutions provider with experience in helping businesses, organisations, energy and utility firms in defending themselves against cyber attacks.
Cyber Security Services for Energy and Utilities
As already highlighted, cyber security for our utility and energy firms is not only essential, but critical in ensuring that we can protect national and international infrastructure and to keep the power on and the water flowing.
Thanks to geopolitical uncertainty in recent times and the dependence we have on these very systems to function, cyber security has a critical role in protecting nations and energy firms to keep operating.
Here are just a few of the primary challenges that energy and utility firms face;
- Industrial control systems (ICS) at risk:
- Recognised as a growing danger to national security and public safety.
- Industrial control systems attacked via third parties.
- Detecting and preventing multistage cyber attacks.
- Identity and system access management.
- Inadequate workforce cyber-security training.
The cyber threat landscape for energy and utility companies has expanded to include more threats from more sources. More than half of energy professionals believe cyberattacks on the industry in the near future will result in a loss of life and many companies are not doing enough to protect themselves, according to a recent report.
Security Challenges Facing the Energy and Utilities Sectors
We’ve come to understand that energy and utility firms are at risk from cyberattacks, but what do these look like and how can they affect both the business and the user is critical to understand.
Examples of cyber attacks on energy and utilities organisations:
- Ransomware attacks. E.g.
- The Colonial pipeline attack occurred in May 2021, which infected some of the pipeline's digital systems, shutting it down for several days. The shutdown affected consumers and airlines along the East Coast. The hack was deemed a national security threat, as the pipeline moves oil from refineries to industry markets. This caused President Joe Biden to declare a state of emergency.
- Volua ASA occurred in May 2021 and involved the notorious Ryuk ransomware, whose operators make a profit by asking for a ransom after encrypting a company’s files.
- Multi-stage cyber attacks. Most of today’s sophisticated attacks are multi-stage. These are attacks that take place in stages rather than in one go.
- Identity theft. Acquiring the identity of a person and using that data to cause widespread issues.
- Hacking such as the recent attacks which affected the Russian power grid and Saudi Aramco’s refineries.
- Data theft - the act of stealing information stored on corporate databases, devices, and servers
- Billing fraud / invoice fraud - involves a fraudster sending fake invoices claiming to be from a genuine supplier.
How attacks and security breaches harm energy and utility firms
- Reputational damage which can affect how the provider is viewed, loss of government contracts or domestic/business contracts.
- Loss of clients such as government contracts which can impact the bottom line and the stable running of the utility company.
- Public safety issues due to the complex and vital role played by energy and utility firms. They are necessities for everyone.
- Services become unusable / unreliable. Power outages and the inability to heat/cook food, make drinks are basic but a requirement.
- Ongoing data access issues.
- Spying across the IT infrastructure
- Costs of rebuilding and strengthening IT networks.
- Significant expenditure on staff training and problem resolution.
- Data recovery costs and time.
Typical vulnerabilities in energy and utility organisations
- Legacy systems with poor cyber protection. Old systems are generally easier to penetrate and cause more disruption. Less protection and outdated safety patches are primarily responsible.
- Out of date software systems. These systems are again, easier to get through and leave organisations vulnerable to attack.
- IoT vulnerabilities. (Internet of Things) Think of smart meters and other technologies which can interact with your systems through networks.
- Operational Technology (OT) vulnerabilities. This is hardware and software that detects or causes a change, through the direct monitoring and/or control of industrial equipment, assets, processes and events.
- Inadequate staff training in cyber security and cyber security awareness.
- Poor cyber security precautions and procedures.
- Energy and utility organisations are high value targets for cybercriminals and terrorists.
Various cybersecurity threats that energy and utilities firms need to protect themselves from
- Cybercriminals including organised crime groups.
- Terrorist groups
- Industrial spies
- Insider threats (malicious and non-malicious).
Questions You Should be Able to Answer
Whether you receive intentional or unintentional cyber attacks, you should be able to assess what the security threats are to your energy and utility firms and what it means in order to protect you and your systems.
- What are the top cyber security concerns faced by your organisation? What do they look like and how can you protect yourself from them?
- What resources are allocated to deal with these concerns? Who is in charge of dealing with cyberattacks? Which third parties may be involved?
- What is the annual budget for updating and protecting your systems?
- Who has access to sensitive data? Which internal and external resources have access to information or systems?
- Are you aware of the cyber attack vectors affecting your organisation? Think of the examples laid out before, in 2021 two major attacks caused mass issues for two different countries.
- How are staff accessing shared / sensitive data? (Devices / security checks). Are these third parties protected? What privacy technologies are they using to help stop the threat of an attack?
- How frequently are existing cyber security defences re-assessed / tested?
- Are all IoT devices adequately protected?
- Is all sensitive data securely backed up on a regular basis?
- What model of cyber security are you using
- Are staff adequately prepared for cyber security attacks and threats?
Why choose Bluefort Security?
Bluefort are leaders in cybersecurity systems in the UK. WIth experience in private owned businesses and public sector institutions, Bluefort has all the capabilities of helping advise and develiver on your cyber security needs.
Whether it is designing cyber security systems, providing assessments, consultations or simply handing over the needs of the business to get better protected, Bluefort is the choice that every organisation who is serious about their cybersecurity needs to consult.
Working with large organisations such as the NHS, AXA, Samsung, Greater Manchester Police and AVIVA (to name but a few), Bluefort has the knowledge and experience in working with large scale organisations to help build the right solution for your energy and utility firm.