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Navigating energy cybersecurity in (post-)pandemic times

After a ransomware attack on Friday, Colonial Pipeline, a US fuel pipeline operator, shut down its network. As of now - May 2021, the pipeline is still mostly shut. A longer shutdown of the pipeline, which supplies almost half of the East Coast's fuel, causes prices to rise at gasoline pumps across one of the biggest economies and most digitally advanced countries in the world.

This cyber incident has underscored that, increasingly, providers of essential services are more vulnerable to widespread #cyberthreats. A lack of basic hygiene leaves critical infrastructure open for attack. As a result, #cybersecurity is becoming a #corporate strategic challenge requiring the highest level of attention, especially for #essential #services operators.

As everything is becoming digitalized and accessed remotely due to the pandemic, the controls for our critical infrastructure are also more computerized and steps need to be taken to ensure that they are protected from cyber attacks.

Cyber hygiene, or lack of it is one of the greatest causes of cyber crime. While the number of cyber attackers is on the rise, the responsibility is also on the company sometimes leaving very basic things undone. With Colonial Pipeline, likely failing to keep its network segmented — so that bad actors can’t easily hop from one piece of the system to the next brought down some of the issues that followed. When Colonial’s IT system was attacked, it was connected to the company’s operating system, so it shut that down, too.

Today, network segmentation is used to break the cyber kill chain through the establishment of cascading higher levels of security verification and data control techniques. Application segmentation is more finely grained while micro-segmentation is based on real-time scanning of data packet transfer requests. But this is not all. There are many paths to take and additional requirements posed for essential services providers in the energy industry domain.

Our company Blueprint Energy Solutions has in the previous years supported European Agencies as well as Critical Infrastructure operators of electricity and gas in:

- navigating complex environment of regulatory compliance when it comes to cybersecurity strategy, systems as well as critically important business continuity and disaster recovery plans. See how even after the US Department of Transportation has issued emergency measures to help restore fuel supply with land transport after the attack forced US largest fuel pipeline offline, it took US president to declare a regional emergency on Sunday, allowing the new measures to be passed immediately – and this measure still "only helped in a minor way."

- developing vulnerability and risk assessment

- providing on site assessment of OT systems such as SCADA and industrial automation as well as underlying telecom infrastructure against cyber attacks

It is certain that the spectre of cyberattacks will persist over the power system and different important infrastructure. You cannot achieve "security by obscurity", so we look forward to engaging even more with operators of critical infrastructure in their resilience building and hope to shed more light on this topic and best practices of implementing necessary cybersecurity measures for the industry.

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