Safety Measures Cyber Security in the Oil & Gas Industry

Author / Editor: Ahlam Rais* / Ahlam Rais

Cyber Security in the oil & gas sector is steadily gaining momentum in the backdrop of rising cyber-attacks. PROCESS Worldwide brings to you the latest cyber security solutions in the market for this vital industry.

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The oil & gas industry must not only address the cyber security of the traditional IT and OT environments to protect critical information but must also look into the intricacies of IIOT.
The oil & gas industry must not only address the cyber security of the traditional IT and OT environments to protect critical information but must also look into the intricacies of IIOT.
(Source: ABB)

Digitalisation has revolutionised industries like never before and the oil & sector is no exception. Plugging in more technologically advanced solutions such as IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) has certainly optimised and improved productivity as well as reduced costs for the industry but at the same time it has also exposed the oil & gas sector to dangerous cyber-attacks. These mischievous invasions are capable of bringing a company’s operations to a complete standstill, thus resulting in enormous loss of money, reputation, and even lives and environmental disasters in some cases.

For instance, in 2012, the industry witnessed one of the most alarming cyber-attacks of all time. Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer was attacked with the ‘Shamoon’ virus which wiped out data from 30,000 computers. This was followed by a similar cyber-attack on RasGas, a Qatar-based gas company which is the second largest producer of Liquid Natural Gas in the Gulf nation.

In 2018, the notorious ‘Shamoon’ virus made a comeback with a new variant in which it attacked the Italian oil and gas company Saipem. In addition to this, Mexico’s largest oil and gas firm, Petróleos Mexicanos also fell prey to a cyber-attack in which five per cent of its computers were affected and more recently, a US natural gas compressor facility was forced to shut down for two days post a ransomware attack.

Safe, Mature Cyber Security System

With the number of sophisticated cyber-attacks increasing in the oil & gas sector, cyber security can no longer be ignored. Dee Kimata, Global Product Manager, Cyber Security, ABB Energy Industries explains, “Oil & gas companies must have proper security measures in place that prevents attackers from intruding their organisation's industrial environment, procedures to continuously upkeep and improve the deployed security solutions, and prepared response procedures in the advent of a cyber-incident. Having a mature cyber security posture is the required foundation needed to realise the benefits of digitalisation for oil & gas companies.”

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“The key drivers for oil & gas companies in regards to cyber security are industry standards and regulations, steep increase in cyber-attacks in the industrial space, need to leverage digital solutions to optimise production to offset cost pressures and resource limitations, and remote connectivity accelerated because of Covid-19 and future contingency planning.” – Dee Kimata, Global Product Manager, Cyber Security, ABB Energy Industries

In a connected Industry 4.0 setting, data from all types of industrial devices are needed for local and cloud based analytics that support the goal of performance and optimisation efforts. Kimata elaborates, “Industrial devices are being connected at all points of the asset life cycle. This includes legacy assets that were not designed with security in mind to assets within green field projects that include security considerations. This leads to an increased need and focus on cyber security required to utilise the full capabilities of the digital assets and processes.”

The OT Angle

In the industry, there are usually two core segments that are focused on when one talks about cyber security – the IT (Information Technology) environment and the OT (Operation Technology) environment. Interestingly, the OT environment has been experiencing an increase in cyber-attacks in recent years due to its connectivity to the IT environment. Jeff Zindel, VP & GM, Honeywell Cyber Security, Honeywell Connected Enterprise says, “It is important to integrate cyber security into the daily operations and lifecycle of the OT to ensure that cyber risks are continually reviewed, and risks mitigated.” He also opines, “OTs are moving towards continuous lifecycle migration every 3-7 years and it’s an opportunity to include cyber security engineering in the specification, design and testing before it is fully implemented as it’s increasingly more difficult, and less safe to modify cyber security controls after an OT system is fully operational.”

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Hence, the oil & gas industry must not only address the security of the traditional IT and OT environments to protect critical information but it must also look into the intricacies of IIOT and incorporate innovative digital business process disruptors such as artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and blockchain.

What’s New in Cyber Security?

Deep Armor Industrial: Siemens Energy and Spark Cognition have recently launched Deep Armor Industrial, a revolutionary cyber security system that makes use of artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor and detect cyber-attacks in order to protect the oil & gas industry’s endpoint OT. Equipped with Spark Cognition’s machine learning technology and Siemens’ global cyber security and energy equipment expertise, the new solution defines a new category in endpoint cyber security.

The unique and innovative AI-based system aims to deliver next-generation antivirus, threat detection, application control, and zero-day attack prevention to the sector. With this solution, fleet level cyber security monitoring and protection capabilities are offered to the sector for the first time.

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“Oil & gas firms need the capabilities of advanced OT and digital transformation to achieve the highest ROI. Cyber security has a strong relationship to OT technology, dependency is increasing, and poor cyber security can stand in the way of achieving the ROI.” - Jeff Zindel, VP & GM, Honeywell Cybersecurity, Honeywell Connected Enterprise

Event Monitoring: ABB’s new cyber-security solution called Event Monitoring will be released in autumn 2020. This solution provides security teams with automated real-time log aggregation and threat correlation software that enables visibility of the entire OT environment. By eliminating manual tasks, customers can focus on value-added tasks whilst still meeting compliance regulations.

Cyber Security Workplace: Another innovation by ABB is its Cyber Security Workplace solution which allows customers to securely automate routine and fundamental security maintenance tasks for their plant, without impacts to safety, process or availability, ensuring that the control system is updated in a consistent and timely basis. The solution provides operators with control and visibility into security patches, frequency of backups, and critical hardening measures.

Nozomi Networks Solution:Schneider Electric has partnered with Nozomi Networks and introduced the advanced Nozomi Networks solution for industrial control system cyber resiliency and real-time operational visibility to customers across the globe. Accurate asset discovery, superior threat detection and flexible and scalable deployment can be achieved with the cyber security solution. The innovative solution also delivers deep network visibility and OT cyber security which is vital for the oil & gas sector.

Forge Cybersecurity Suite: The Honeywell Forge Cybersecurity Suite offers secure remote access and operations management, deep asset visibility and continuous monitoring, and risk and compliance management with centralised administration. These capabilities result in productivity improvements, reduced costs and stronger business continuity for asset owners and operators.

Managed Security Services: Honeywell’s Managed Security Services for process control infrastructure protection are powered by the Honeywell Forge Cybersecurity Suite to proactively monitor, measure and manage industrial cyber security risk.

Cyber Security is the need of the hour and as Saudi Aramco’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Amin H. Nasser said, “To beat a network, we need to be a network.”

* The author is an editor at PROCESS Worldwide. Contact: