Energy security pros worry about catastrophic failure due to cyberattacks

70 percent of energy security professionals are concerned that a successful cyberattack could cause a catastrophic failure, such as an explosion, a recent survey has shown.

Of the 151 IT and operational technology (OT) security pros at energy and oil and gas companies that were polled, 97 percent are concerned that attacks could cause operational shutdowns, and 96 percent believe they could impact the safety of their employees.

energy security

Respondents were also asked about their organizations’ security investments, with the following results:

  • While 65 percent feel their company invests sufficiently in ICS security, 62 percent said that lack of budget and investment continues to be the biggest barrier in meeting ICS security goals.
  • Of those who said their company does not invest sufficiently, 56 percent believe it would take a significant attack to get their companies to a proper level of investment.
  • Ninety-one percent are worried about attacks on their ICS. Fifty-nine percent said their companies increased security investments because of ICS-targeted attacks like Trisis/Triton, Industroyer/CrashOverride and Stuxnet.
  • 45 percent said ransomware has had the most significant impact in increasing their security investment, compared to 44 percent who said Trisis/Triton and Industroyer/CrashOverride and 11 percent who said Stuxnet.

“Energy companies have accepted the reality that digital threats can have tangible consequences,” said Tim Erlin, vice president of product management and strategy at Tripwire. “This perception is perhaps heightened by recent attacks that were specifically designed to affect physical operations and have proven capable of doing so.”

It is widely recommended that organizations properly secure their critical infrastructure ICS with a layered approach, commonly referred to as Defense in Depth.

In the survey, only 35 percent of respondents said they implement a multilayered approach to ICS security. 34 percent said they focus primarily on network level security, and 14 percent said ICS device security.

“It’s encouraging to see that companies have increased their security investment somewhat. However, it’s concerning that more than half would wait for an attack to happen before investing properly, given what’s at stake with critical infrastructure,” Erlin added. “The energy industry should invest in establishing more robust cybersecurity strategies, with a proper foundation of critical security controls and layers of defense.”