The field of digital transformation (DX) is experiencing rapid growth, not only in terms of automating regular services in the IT environment but also in the emergence of enhanced and secure Operations Technology (OT) within the Industrial revolutions. The demand for advanced OT is constantly rising in the Energy sector Supply Chain curve. However, the increasing occurrence of Cyber Attacks in OT poses a significant threat, hindering the acceptance and adoption of digital transformation at the same pace.
As part of the 4th Industrial Revolution, organizations are increasingly seeking greater monitoring, accountability, optimization, and reporting to manage the spike in enterprise and control environmental pollution. It is crucial for executive leaders to align their digital strategies with the underlying cyber risks associated with energy disruption, considering the utmost importance of safety.
Safety is a major concern in the Energy and Utilities sectors, given their highly inflammable and fast-paced nature that can result in the destruction of an entire plant. Similarly, Cyber Security is of paramount importance in Critical Infrastructure, as disruptions can occur in the blink of an eye if vulnerabilities, whether known, unknown, or common, are not addressed.
So, how can we prioritize and take immediate action? Allow us to share first-hand observations from the Oil & Gas industry. In any industrial organization, safety always comes first. Without proper safety training and certifications, individuals cannot enter the plant, as people are considered more vulnerable than anything else. Similarly, cyber awareness is critical at all levels, from the board members and management team to operators, who must possess a categorical and authoritative understanding of cyber safety.
Let’s consider the Permit to Work (PTW) system as an example. Would anyone be allowed to enter the tank farm without a proper PTW in place? In the same way, OT systems require a set of AAA rules: Authorization, Authentication, and Accessibility. These rules ensure control and restrict access to any OT systems, preventing harmful actions.
Just as corroded pipelines cannot sustain the supply of crude oil over time, continuous preventive and corrective maintenance work orders must be carried out by field workers. This reminds us of a project executed to implement an audit system for fire and safety equipment maintenance and operations using RFID tags. In this system, field staff cannot escape executing the work order at the site, ensuring cyber-safe practices. Therefore, a cyber-safe operational environment must include continuous threat assessments, patching, upgrading, and the implementation of new cyber security controls to prevent, defend, and respond to any malicious activities.
Furthermore, the success of an industrial business relies on effective supply chain management, encompassing sourcing, inventory checks, field installation, operations, and maintenance, ultimately delivering high-quality products or solutions to the market. Therefore, to run a successful cyber-safe business, asset and threat visibility throughout the entire supply chain is crucial. This visibility enables the implementation of control measures to mitigate risks stemming from competition, political factors, and ransom disruptions.
In summary, education (awareness) at all levels, the implementation of a zero-trust mechanism, and operational efficiency through proper process and technology controls in OT environments are essential to achieve safety, availability, integrity, and confidentiality for industrial leaders, enabling them to meet market demand while ensuring a threat-free business environment.
The rapidly growing demand for energy and its consequential environmental impacts are creating global disruptions across all industries. Executive leaders should utilize future energy scenarios to anticipate, prepare for, and navigate a complex and volatile future.
Author: Cyber Security Specialist