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Survey: Majority of Energy Sector Companies Can't Track Cyber-Threats

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, the energy sector faces more cyber-attacks than any other industry, and attacks on industrial control system networks are on the rise. If successful, these energy sector cyber-attacks could have a dramatic physical impact. But, two-thirds of IT staff in the energy, utilities and oil and gas industries say they have no visibility into the physical ramifications at stake.

According to a survey from Tripwire, more than three out of four respondents (76%) believe their organizations are targets for cyber-attacks that could cause physical damage; and 100% of energy executive respondents said that a kinetic cyber-attack on operational technology would cause physical damage. Yet, only 35% of energy IT professionals said they could accurately track all threats targeting their operational technology.

"After hundreds of years protecting our nation’s geographic borders, it is sobering to note that possibly the most vulnerable frontier happens to be the infrastructure that runs the largest companies in the country,” said Rheka Shenoy, VP and general manager of industrial IT cybersecurity for Belden, in the report.

According to Tripwire’s study, 78% of respondents said their organizations are potential targets for nation-state campaigns.

“The incredibly high percentages of these responses underscores the need for these industries to take material steps to improve cybersecurity,” said Tim Erlin, director of IT security and risk strategy for Tripwire, in the report. “These threats are not going away. They are getting worse.”

For instance, in December, BlackEnergy malware was used in an attack against a power plant in the Ukraine and left over 700,000 customers without electricity.

“We’ve already seen the reality of these responses in the Ukraine mere months after this survey was completed,” Erlin continued. “There can be no doubt that there is a physical safety risk from cyber-attacks targeting the energy industry today. While the situation may seem dire, in many cases there are well understood best practices that can be deployed to materially reduce the risk of successful cyber-attacks.”

Photo © Jaochainoi

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