Attacks Against Oil and Gas Industry on the Rise

New research published today by Kaspersky examines a rise in the number of cyber-attacks on industrial control system (ICS) computers used by the oil and gas industry.

Over the first six months of 2020, the percentage of systems attacked in the oil and gas industry increased when compared to the same time period last year. The same trend was discovered at play in the building automation industry.

Researchers noted: "The percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked grew from 38% in H2, 2019 to 39.9% in H1, 2020 in the building automation industry and from 36.3% to 37.8% in the oil and gas industry."

Growth in the number of attacks on these sectors occurred as the percentage of industrial control system computers attacked in other industries declined. 

The research appears to indicate that cyber-criminals are moving their focus away from the energy, automotive manufacturing and engineering, and ICS integration industries. 

Kaspersky noted that building automation systems are especially vulnerable to cyber-attacks. 

"They often have a larger attack surface than traditional ICS computers because they are frequently connected to corporate networks and the Internet," wrote researchers. "At the same time, because they traditionally belong to contractor organizations, these systems are not always managed by the organization’s corporate information security team, making them an easier target."

Changes in working practices brought about by COVID-19 have left systems more exposed to attack. 

"With many enterprises forced to work remotely and sign-in to corporate systems from home, ICS have naturally become more exposed to cyberthreats," said Evgeny Goncharov, security expert at Kaspersky.

"With fewer on-site personnel, there are fewer people available to respond and mitigate an attack, meaning the consequences may be far more devastating."

Further findings were that the percentage of ICS computers affected by ransomware grew slightly in H1 2020 when compared to H2 2019 across all industries, with a series of attacks witnessed against medical facilities and industrial companies.

Kaspersky recommended that companies in the oil and gas and building automation industries that use ICS computers regularly update operating systems and application software that are part of the enterprise’s industrial network.

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