Energy industry under unceasing attack in 2015

Pierluigi Paganini January 17, 2016

A study conducted by TripWire over the past year revealed successful cyber attacks on the energy industry increased as never before.

US oil and gas companies are under attack, over 80% of them have reported a significant increase in the number of cyber attacks. According to Tripwire, over the past year successful cyber attacks have increased as never before.

Tripwire interviewed 150 IT professionals in the energy industry working in oil, gas and electricity companies with the intent to evaluate the principal cyber threats and their impact on the sector.

Companies operating in the energy industry operate a large number of critical infrastucture, for this reason it is important to evaluate the level of security in the sector.

82% of professionals declared that have seen an increase in the number of successful attacks, but most worrying data is that 53% claimed the frequency of attacks had risen between 50-100% over the last 30 days.

In March 2015, a report issued by the DHS ICS-CERT revealed that most critical infrastructure attacks involve APTs, but organizations lack monitoring capabilities.

energy industry Tripwire report

This data is confirmed by 69% of respondents to the Tripwire study that declared they “weren’t confident” their company would be able to detect every cyber attack.

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According to US Department of Homeland Security in 2014 the companies in the energy industries suffered 245 incidents.

The impact of a cyber attack against an energy company could be very serious, as occurred recently in Ukraine, where a malware concurred to a major power outage.

“The increase in successful attacks should be deeply concerning,” said Tim Erlin, director of IT security and risk strategy for Tripwire.  “Successful attacks could mean that attackers are able to breach a specific security control or that they have been able to get closer to sensitive data using phishing or malware scams that have been detected. It could also mean that attackers are launching more persistent, targeted attacks.”

According to the Reuters, a US government official warned that authorities have seen an increase in cyber attacks that compromised industrial control system networks over the past year.

“We see more and more that are gaining access to that control system layer,” said Marty Edwards, who runs the Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, or ICS-CERT.

Edwards explained that the increase in attacks was mainly caused by the increased exposure over the Internet for ICS.

“I am very dismayed at the accessibility of some of these networks… they are just hanging right off the tubes,” he said in an on-stage interview with conference organizer Dale Peterson.

Concluding, oil and gas industry needs to increase investment in cyber security to mitigate cyber threats even more sophisticated.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – energy industry, cyber security)

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