Skip to content ↓ | Skip to navigation ↓

Increasingly destructive cyberattacks against the energy sector could result in wide-ranging economic repercussions and ultimately undermine U.S. companies’ ability to compete globally, according to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

“Some damage was done in each of these cases, but the costs of future breaches could be much higher, whether to corporate assets, public infrastructure and safety, or the broader economy through energy prices,” the Council’s report stated. “Successful cyberattacks threaten the competitiveness of the U.S. oil and gas industry, one of the nation’s most technically advanced and economically important sectors.”

Citing examples of high profile and very costly attacks against U.S. energy producers like Chevron, and those witnessed last year against foreign producers like Saudi Aramco and Qatar RasGas, the CFR report laments the shift by attackers from economic espionage towards efforts to impact production.

“While intrusions previously focused on the theft of intellectual property and business strategies, the malware attack on Saudi Aramco reflects a worrying qualitative change toward attacks with the potential for causing physical disruptions to the oil and gas supply chain,” the report continued.

While the threat of data and systems destroying attacks are on the industry’s radar, the threat from data pilfering operations is still quite prevalent, and the mechanism used to exfiltrate data can easily be adapted to distribute malware that could impact production systems.

Last week, Cisco TRAC reported they have been monitoring numerous “malicious redirects” that they believe are part of a sophisticated watering-hole attack aimed at high profile targets in the energy sector with iFrame injections.

Compromised domains include those belonging to a major international oil and gas firm, a British power station, a French energy distributor, an energy equipment industrial supplier,and several investment firms that focus on the energy sector.

Needless to say, the energy sector needs to remain vigilant in the face of escalating attacks.