The energy sector is a vital industry that influences the day-to-day operations of businesses in different sectors, involving all industries that participate in the manufacturing and distribution of solar, wind, water, oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Due to its crucial role in present-day society, the energy sector has become a prime target for cyber-attacks. Heightened dependence on emerging technology, such as smart grids and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, makes the energy sector more susceptible to modern attack vectors. As cyber threats continue to evolve and become more complex, companies in the energy sector need to take preventive actions to protect their operations. The outcomes of a successful attack are devastating and put businesses at real risk. Although the stakes are high, when companies have the necessary cybersecurity protocols in place, the organization and the energy industry at large can continue to satisfy rising energy demands while maintaining the safety and security of their workers, customers, and the Bulk Electric System.
Companies that maintain advanced technology within the energy sector have grown in recent years, but unfortunately, not all companies within the sector have taken the necessary steps toward this digital transformation. According to Trend Micro, 20.7% of companies surveyed noted that they experienced a phishing attack which made the company shut down operations of ICS/OT systems. Executing cybersecurity protocols and best practices is critical to ensure energy companies will be able to continue to support their operations and make sure they are functioning efficiently and securely. Implementing advanced security protocols allows companies to efficiently reduce the risk of harmful cyber threats, such as data theft. It is important to remain educated about the most recent threats and to understand the precautionary measures required to assist in increasing security within the organization. Here are three of the most common cyber security threats that companies in the energy industry need to be aware of:
- Interconnected and incomplete systems
Maintaining secure and up-to-date systems is crucial for an energy company’s success. Numerous companies within the energy sector have vast interconnected systems and incomplete systems. As dependence on technology and interconnected systems has increased, so does the threat of a cyber-attack. Such attacks not only threaten the security of energy systems, but these attacks also raise financial risks. Furthermore, the use of third-party vendors can also increase the risk of cyber-attacks. A recent type of attack developing over the past few years are incomplete system attacks, where threat actors target and interfere with a specific part of the energy systems without destroying it. It is crucial for companies in the energy field to stay aware and prepare for these types of attacks for security purposes. To help prevent these attacks, it is vital for energy companies to give precedence to implementing complete and secure systems.
- Attacks on the supply chain
Supply chain cyber-attacks are a growing concern in the energy industry. In the past, supply chain attacks have traditionally targeted trusted third-party relationships that involve attacking a vulnerable entity in a supply chain to access its larger trading partners. That is why it is critical to build trustworthy relationships with third-party vendors. Nowadays, threat actors can also target a company’s software supply. Software supply chain attacks intend to infect as many users as possible through incorporating malicious codes into a computer application. To reduce the probability of supply chain cyber-attacks, energy companies need to create and administer thorough cybersecurity protocols which include standard evaluations of their supply chain partners. These protocols should include preventive measures and risk management strategies, such as incident response procedures. Through adopting preventive measures and implementing risk management protocols, your company may be protected against the continuous threat of cyber-attacks.
- Ransomware and Incident response
The energy industry continues to face major risks of ransomware attacks by threat actors. The emergence of the remote workforce has given threat actors the opportunity to target vulnerable systems, making ransomware attacks more prevalent. Similarly, energy companies need to invest in establishing and maintaining an incident response plan. Creating an incident response plan is critical, because when an incident occurs, the company will be aware of appropriate measures to take to mitigate damage to the company’s infrastructure and reputation. Energy companies must remain aware and invest in in-depth cybersecurity measures to mitigate the risk of a ransomware attack. The consequences of a successful ransomware attack can be catastrophic, from costly fines and recovery efforts. As energy companies continue to understand and develop proactive measures regarding this threat, it is essential that they prioritize cybersecurity measures.
The escalating scope and severity of ransomware attacks within the energy sector are particularly noteworthy. In 2020, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, the average ransomware payment skyrocketed to over $200,000, marking a remarkable four-fold surge within a mere twelve months.
How can you help protect your company
If you want to help your company, take proactive measures to help prevent cyber-attacks from occurring, reference the following steps:
- Conduct regular risk assessments and implement cybersecurity policies
According to Trend Micro, 43% of Electricity/Energy companies sometimes make cybersecurity improvements to mitigate risks. That is why it is imperative for energy companies to conduct routine risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities and prepare for a cyber-attack. Energy companies should frequently evaluate their data, systems, and procedures to detect potential threats. Additionally, your company should implement robust cybersecurity strategies. Energy companies should establish and enforce cybersecurity procedures, which can include data encryption and access controls. If your company has a procedure that includes accurate risk assessments, they can ease the effects of a successful cyber-attack to protect their assets, customers, and stakeholders.
- Train employees
Training employees on how to detect and prevent cyber-attacks is crucial in securing the company’s sensitive information and systems. Threat actors target companies by using attacks ranging from phishing to malware installation; and they are constantly discovering new ways to break into companies. The cybersecurity training should include the best practices for detecting and preventing cyber threats and understanding procedures for responding to a potential attack. When companies invest in detailed cyber security training for all employees, they can lower the risk of security incidents occurring.
- Protect your data
Companies should install the most recent security software and maintain it to help protect against known threats. Moreover, by backing up data, companies will be able to quickly recover and prevent data loss. To reduce this risk, energy companies should invest in advanced security software and backup solutions. Data protection is not only a legal and regulatory requirement but also an ethical promise towards the customers and stakeholders who depend on your organization’s services.
How Can PSM Help?
At PSM, we provide managed IT services for utilities to help maintain IT systems and implement strategies to help improve the efficiency of the system. We will assess your current IT situation and create a plan that accommodates your specific needs. We can help oversee the operation of your IT system with 24/7/365 monitoring and find and fix issues before they lead to major problems. Our professionals will identify ways in which we can upgrade and improve your system in addition to providing basic maintenance. We will also implement security measures to protect your system from incidents and crashes. Another aspect of our managed IT services is ensuring that your electronic data is stored safely and efficiently. With our cloud services, we will assess your current data storage situation and help you find ways to make your storage more efficient and cost-effective. We can implement cloud-based, on-premises, or hybrid storage solutions and migrate your data to a cloud.