The oil and gas industry has experienced a lot of growth, particularly in Texas, including expansion of shale and offshore drilling capabilities. But while capacity to access energy resources expands, so does the risk of serious damage from the emerging challenges of cyber threats. Cybersecurity is becoming a big concern across many industries, and has typically been feared most in the context of data breaches compromising personal health or financial information, or classified government intel.
Skyler Williams, a cyber-attack mitigation professional from Austin, Texas, warns that the critical infrastructure control systems and volatile product of big oil and gas companies spell a far greater threat to the environment and economy in the case of a cyber breach than a typical data hack. The hacking of a German steel mill’s systems, the Stuxnet attack against the Iranian nuclear program, and the infamous BP Deepwater Horizon spill are several high-profile examples of cyber-attacks that caused severe damage to the environments around their targets, affected by hacking into and disrupting the control systems.
The consequences of successful cyberattacks against oil and gas industry infrastructures could be far more severe in terms of the consequences on the economy and environment than attacks in other sectors, says Williams. While some action has been taken by industry and legislative leaders, cyber safety ought to be a higher priority to those tasked with guarding such sensitive infrastructure systems.