Pipeline Cybersecurity – Do not wait until it is too late

5/20/2021

Reports of cyber-attacks on a major pipeline operator have dominated the recent news cycle and driven home the paralyzing impact a ransomware attack can have on a business and the markets it serves. And businesses are not the only notable targets; notably a Midwest city suffered an attack which brought down all of the city’s network and computers[1]and several municipal utility providers have had water treatment facilities shut down.

Operators must be aware of the imminent threats posed by hackers both nationally and internationally, and the damage they can cause.  Often, these attacks are solely to instill chaos within an organization, holding systems hostage for a large ransom payment.  One attack can render a system useless for an indeterminate amount of time, and the impacts can be widespread and devastating.

As more and more operators rely on web-based solutions, cybersecurity becomes a critical issue for any system.  Operators should ensure that any control room, control system, or program that is accessed via the internet has the proper security protocols and protections to fend off a cyber-attack.  Ideally the control systems and control room should be completely segregated from any internet connectivity.  Strong passwords, anti-virus software, multi-factor authentication and segregated servers are only a small fraction of the actions that operators should take to secure their system. For years businesses have worked hard to develop network systems with the capacity to interconnect their organization, fostering a connected workplace and universal communication platform.  Today with the threats of cyber-attacks, that connectivity is becoming a threat to the business, with pathways built in that allow hackers to access the network from any location the network reaches.

The criticality of personnel training cannot be overstated.  Operators should ensure that all personnel who have access to the network have the proper training in security measures to limit potential entry points for bad actors. Controllers should be trained to recognize a cyber-attack and know how to respond effectively and appropriately to protect the system.

Operators must always remember that cyber-attacks are not a matter of if, but a matter of when the attack is going to happen.

If you have questions or would like to discuss this further, please reach out to us.

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/posts/andy-jenkinson-96210727_city-of-tulsa-hit-by-ransomware-over-the-activity-6797501219460984832-T8nh/