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Power industry becoming a new “battleground” for cyber attacks

Cyber-attacks have turned power grids and energy pipelines into a new battleground making it imperative companies update their monitoring systems and have the necessary backups in place.

The ongoing war in Ukraine has focussed attention on the impact cyber criminals and nation states can have when they successful hack into vital power systems making cyber insurance cover vital for businesses.

Early this year, the discovery of “wiper” malware in Ukraine, which permanently deletes data on infected computers,  dramatically raised the threat level for the  energy community.

In April, the Ukrainian government revealed  it had thwarted an attempt by attackers from Sandworm, a Russian cyber-military unit, to hack high-voltage electrical substations. Analysts at Moody’s have warned that, given the interconnected nature of electricity grids and gas pipelines, “there is increased risk of a cyber event impacting multiple countries.”

Five years ago a Russian hacker came close, according to the US Department of Justice,  to causing what could have been a “catastrophic” and deadly attack on a US oil refinery, by deploying malicious software in a bid to cause severe “physical damage”.

However, safety systems and automatic shutdowns of the refinery were triggered and the hacker was subsequently unmasked as an employee of the Russian defence ministry’s research institute. He was charged by the DoJ, alongside three other Russian government employees who allegedly targeted energy companies across more than 135 countries between 2012 and 2018.

Stuart McKenzie, senior vice-president of Mandiant Services in Europe, Middle East, and Africa  believes Russia is treating cyber as an “additional theatre of warfare” by targeting critical energy infrastructure. He added; ”It’s  an ability to really show an extension of your power.”

There are growing fears that Russia will try to disrupt power supply operations, to increase dependence on their own resources.

However, it is not just nation states that are causing concern with cyber criminals a growing threat making it vital that energy companies ensure they are “bolstering intelligence and enhancing monitoring of usual suspects, watching for changes in (tactics) and hunting as they change”, says Simon Hodgkinson, former chief information security officer at BP and a board adviser at the IT security group, Reliance acsn.

W Denis can arrange specialist cyber insurance cover and can offer first class technical advice. Solutions are available for multi-billion turnover businesses, down to small start-ups. To discuss this further with a broker at W Denis, please make arrangements with Daniel Moss at daniel.moss@wdenis.co.uk or on 0044 (0)113 2439812

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