Energy Sector Cyber Challenges
The energy sector is a key part of critical infrastructure, and the impact of a successful attack has proven to be highly damaging. Below are some of the factors contributing to the energy sector’s cyber risk.
Nature of the Sector: Energy organizations cannot risk falling offline. At the same time, the mix of IT and operational technology (OT) systems only amplifies the cyber risk. No longer does the threat of a cyber attack against an energy organization require deep expertise of SCADA or ICS equipment. The Colonial Pipeline attack, among others, has proven that any attack against an energy sector organization can be devastating.
Unique Vulnerabilities: The energy sector comprises a broad range of firms involved in the production and distribution of energy including oil and gas exploration, production and refining, renewable energy development, electricity generation, transmission, and distribution as well as nuclear energy. Their businesses range from discovery and development of energy resources to power generation, requiring a wide variety of technology and equipment to service different populations and customers. This diversity presents unique vulnerabilities to the energy sector and its supply chain.
Talent Shortage: The global cybersecurity talent shortage impacts every sector. For the energy sector, the talent shortage is compounded by demographics: many energy sector workers are older and retiring, but younger people are less attracted to the more traditional, in-person work environments required by many energy sector organizations.
Broad Motivations: Cyber threats targeting the energy sector are varied, and this only presents additional challenges. Not only is ransomware a growing threat, but nation-state or state-affiliated threat actors recognize how impactful taking an energy company down would be. In having to defend against all lines of potential attack, energy sector organizations may often feel stretched thin on budget and resources.