Cyber attacks targeting the energy sector on the rise

Alert Logic examined the rise of cyber attacks targeting the energy sector—an industry thought to be particularly at risk due to the highly confidential and proprietary information they possess, as well as the prevalence of BYOD and contractor access.

“The energy sector is a big part of the global economy and therefore has extremely high-stakes security risks compared to other industries,” said Stephen Coty, director, security research with Alert Logic.

“Daily survival of the population and businesses alike depend on the availability of energy resources, making energy companies a prime target for hackers. This Security Bulletin calls out the specific threats to energy companies and provides recommendations for fine tuning existing information security defenses,” Coty added.

The energy sector is at an elevated risk of brute force and malware/botnet attacks:

67 percent of energy companies experienced brute force attacks, versus 34% of entire customer set. Attackers look for opportunistic points of vulnerability in networks housing confidential business information. Breaches of geophysical data, in particular, are intended to damage or destroy the data used in energy resource exploration. Brute force attacks are also used to steal a company’s intellectual property for the purpose of industrial espionage.

61 percent of energy companies experienced malware/botnet infiltration attacks, versus 13% of entire customer set. These attacks seek access to physical infrastructure systems that control pipelines and other key energy plant operations. Alert Logic found that technologies such as SCADA systems are vulnerable to hacking, while the emerging business practices of BYOD and BYOA (bring your own applications) in the workplace can be carriers of viruses and other malware.

“Unlike an attack on an e-Commerce site or SaaS application provider, a malware infiltration attack on an energy company could grow to catastrophic proportions if hackers were able to block or flood the oil and gas pipeline infrastructure,” Coty said. “This industry doesn’t see the typical web application attacks. It experiences a greater magnitude of security threats that could have global repercussions for years to come.”

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