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A surge of cyber security for the energy sector

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By Eleanor Barlow, Content Manager, SecurityHQ

With a rapid transition towards renewable energy, the Energy sector has an increased reliance on technology. This makes it particularly vulnerable with regards to cyber security, as it depend on interconnected systems and digital technologies that make interactions a breeding ground for threats such as ransomware, and phishing attacks. In this article, we explore the current cybersecurity challenges faced by the Energy sector and discuss potential solutions to mitigate these risks…

Understanding Key Vulnerabilities

Although the Energy industry, encompassing the electric-power and gas sectors, faces cybersecurity threats like those encountered by other industries, it also has specific vulnerabilities that require specific attention. A cyber-attack against an Energy Provide can lead to widespread power outages, significant economic losses, damage to physical infrastructure, and compromise the safety of workers and the public. The widespread impact of a security breach is astronomical.

According to Statista, ‘the market will reach over two trillion U.S. dollars by 2030’. Given the expansive footprint of the energy sector, spanning across various domains and geographical locations, it becomes a prime target for cyber threats. This, in turn, opens many potential entry points for threat actors.

In addition, as energy companies continue to embrace digital transformation and leverage emerging technologies to streamline operations, it also exposes the industry to a broader attack surface.

In fact, The World Economic Forum stated that “As one of the world’s most sophisticated and complex industries makes a multifaceted transition – from analogue to digital, from centralized to distributed and from fossil-based to low-carbon – managing cyber risk and preventing cyber threats are quickly becoming critical to company value chains.”

Common Cybersecurity Threats to the Energy Industry

The critical role of the energy industry in powering economies and supporting essential services, which makes it an attractive target for cybercriminals seeking confidential information and financial gain, with 63% – 95% of attacks contributing to the latter.

Some of the common cybersecurity threats that the energy sector faces include Ransomware Attacks. The Colonial Pipeline attack of May 2021 is among one of the most significant cyberattacks against on oil infrastructure in the history of the US, wherein attackers gained access to Colonial Pipeline Co.’s network via an employee’s stolen VPN password to obtain 100 GB of data for a ransom of 75-bitcoin.

Supply chain attacks are another significant cybersecurity threat faced by the energyindustry, whereby attackers exploit vulnerabilities in the supply chain ecosystem to gain unauthorized access to critical systems or compromise the integrity of software and hardware components. One of the most notable attacks in the energy sector was the SolarWinds attack of 2020, which enabled the attackers unauthorized access into the company’s systems by injecting trojan code into their Orion software updates.

Enhancing Cyber Resilience in the Energy Sector

Robust Security Measures

Implementing robust security measures is vital to ensure the protection of critical assets and infrastructure within the energy industry. This includes network segmentation to enhance security, enabling firewalls to control network traffic, and providing comprehensive security awareness training to employees.

Comprehensive Threat Monitoring

One of the most critical aspects of mitigating cyberattacks in the energy sector is conducting comprehensive risk assessments to identify and prioritize potential cyber threats and vulnerabilities specific to the industry. SecurityHQ’s Managed Detection and Response(MDR) solution enables businesses to avoid potential cyber threats by analysing, prioritizing, and responding to incidents in real-time.

Incident Response Planning

Incident Response Planning is a crucial component of cybersecurity in the Energy industry. It involves establishing a well-defined and structured approach to handling and mitigating security incidents.

Next Steps

Considering the vulnerable nature of the Energy sector, it is imperative for the industry to prioritize cybersecurity measures. By recognizing these cybersecurity challenges and implementing appropriate solutions, the industry can mitigate risks, protect critical assets and infrastructure, and ensure the reliable and secure delivery of energy services.

CEBR: Risk of recession in Europe ‘rises to 40%’ as Putin turns off the gas

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) estimates the risk of a recession in Europe this winter at approximately 40% as a result of Russian energy taps being closed shut as part of sanctions against the Putin regime.

Last week, Germany triggered stage two of its emergency gas plan, following a significant reduction in Russian gas exports to the Eurozone’s largest economy.

Russia’s state energy company Gazprom cut exports through the NordStream pipeline by around 60% and planned maintenance downtime July is widely considered a convenient opportunity for Putin to shut the pipeline down entirely.

The European energy crisis, which has started in the winter of 2021 and ratcheted up following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has thereby reached another level of escalation. The consequences of this are by no means limited to Germany. Gas flowing through the TurkStream pipeline to Bulgaria is down by 50% while exports through the Yamal pipeline to Poland have stopped entirely, making this a veritable pan-European crisis.

In the UK, too, the energy crisis could yet get worse. Rising gas prices have been a major contributor to the ongoing cost of living crisis so far. But a complete stop of Russian exports to Europe would also put the UK’s energy security at risk as the heating season starts in the winter.

While there is no Russian pipeline delivering gas to the UK directly – and indeed, the UK receives the vast majority of its gas imports from Norway – the UK is still exposed to swings in global market prices. Also, as increasing numbers of European countries are vying for a limited supply of gas from alternative sources, prices have shot up significantly.

In addition, the UK has very limited storage capacity, meaning it is less able to sit out temporary price shocks – whether these stem from Putin’s decision to turn off the gas taps or a spell of the feared ‘Dunkelflaute’ – a period of no wind and very little sunshine, preventing power generation from renewables.

The threat that Russia would use its energy exports as a weapon to exert pressure on Western countries that support Ukraine’s resistance has been clear since the beginning of hostilities, if not before. The flipside of this has been the attempt of Western allies to inflict as much economic pain on Russia as possible to make it harder for Putin to fund his war.

However, while the European Union agreed on an embargo of Russian oil at the end of last month, there was little appetite to extend similar measures to the Russian supply of gas, given the difficulties in finding alternative suppliers at short notice. Now, Putin seems intent on forcing the hand of European states, convinced that stopping gas exports will hurt Western countries more than it will cost Russia in terms of forgone foreign currency.

If gas supplies were indeed to run empty, governments will choose to shut down industrial sites first rather than reducing supply to homes. The knock-on effects on the economy therefore depend in part on the degree to which gas is used in industrial processes rather than to produce electricity or to heat homes.

In Germany, for example, industry accounted for 37% of gas consumption in 2021, a significantly higher share than in Italy at 25% or in the UK at 23%.

Despite these differences, it seems clear that in the case of European gas shortages, a severe recession will be a near certainty. This is because European countries are linked to each other not only via energy interconnectors but also through highly integrated supply chains.

The likelihood for a gas shortage emerging in Germany has been estimated at 20% in a recent joint-study by various research institutes, which is somewhat lower than a few months ago due to efforts to fill up gas reserves in recent weeks. However, from a European perspective, the risk of a recession must be estimated higher than this, given that most East and Central European countries are even more dependent on Russian gas than Germany is.

Italy and France are also on high alert as their energy supplies are equally at risk. In addition to this, a tight gas supply will lead to further increases in energy prices for consumers, adding to inflationary pressures and claiming an even greater share of households’ disposable income, which is a recession risk in itself.

Taken together, Cebr estimates the risk of a recession in Europe this winter at approximately 40%. It is therefore in everyone’s interest to use the time until winter to substitute away from gas where possible, secure additional supplies from other countries and reduce gas consumption wherever possible.

UK vs EU Energy Security Policy: What you need to know

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By David Kipling, CEO – On-Site Energy

In April 2022 the UK published its Energy Security Strategy. The key aim of the strategy is for the UK to achieve long-term independence from foreign energy sources and decarbonise the nation’s power supply. The main initiatives of the strategy are investment in nuclear generation and offshore wind, the latter being the source of hydrogen generation.

Contrasting this to EU energy security strategy (which is far more dependent on Russian gas) the EU highlights rapid action to embrace energy savings, diversification of energy supplies, and accelerated roll-out of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels in homes, industry and power generation.

UK plans are all long-term measures – it takes 10+ years to develop nuclear and offshore wind UK sees oil and gas as an important transition fuel and has set out plans to increase activity in the UK North Sea. In the meantime, CO2 reductions will be incremental at best.

EU has to act rapidly. A strong focus is on supporting energy efficiency and local renewables, which are much faster to implement.  This is also the fastest way to reduce costs and address current energy costs.

If you think about this in the context of our energy hungry industry, I think the right conclusion would be to follow the EU direction rather than wait for the long term measures. There is nothing lost by reducing consumption and using low-carbon generation to control and reduce costs.

If you would like to discuss how to be more energy efficient and use low-carbon energy generation, please contact David Kipling, CEO – On-Site Energy on 0151 271 0037 or email (