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Analyzing the Risk of Cyberattacks in the Oil and Gas Industry

Cyber threats are everywhere, as criminals will do everything possible to steal data from all types of organizations. The oil and gas industry is susceptible to these attacks because their operating systems function online and have increasing connections via the Internet of Things.

Companies in this industry must take steps to secure their systems using a robust cyber security framework because a data breach could cause irreparable damage. The oil and gas product chain features three parts, upstream, midstream, and downstream, and attacks can occur at any step in the process, so developing a threat mitigation strategy is essential.

Cyber security in the oil and gas industry is vital because so much money and information change hands daily. This guide looks at who is attacking these organizations, their methods, and where there’s an opportunity for security product development. 

Where Attacks are Coming From

Threats to the oil and gas industry come from multiple sources, adding to the challenge of defending against them. Some threats directly impact production, while other breaches allow company secrets or data to fall into the wrong hands. Parties that oil and gas firms need to watch include the following: 


Insider threats pose a significant risk for oil and gas companies. These insiders are typically disgruntled former employees who steal data and release it to competitors for monetary gain or revenge. Insiders can also destroy or delete files because they often have access to company systems and know the organization’s inner workings.

Foreign Governments

Domestic oil and gas companies could see foreign governments sabotage their operations or steal sensitive information like drilling techniques or information on oil reserves. The most blatant example of foreign government interference is Advanced Persistent Threat 33, or APT33, a hacking group with the backing of the Iranian government. APT33 has targeted oil and gas firms in the past, making it a continual threat to the industry.

Data Thieves

There are also scenarios where cyberattacks come from external data thieves looking to capitalize on the information they obtain. Hackers can sell recipes for premium products and other industry secrets once they gain access to a system, so putting the proper protections in place is vital.

Cyberattacks can come from internal and external sources, so every oil and gas company needs an effective cyber security strategy to address as many risks as possible. This issue is too important to dismiss because a significant attack could stop the product chain and cause irreparable damage to the company’s reputation.

Seven Threats Oil and Gas Companies Face 

Challenges can arise regarding cyber security in the oil and gas industry because there are so many threats. Attackers can use various techniques when targeting a particular firm, making a robust protection strategy vital. Some threats oil and gas companies face from hackers include the following:

1. DNS Hijacking

DNS hijacking is an advanced hacking technique that gives the attacker access to an oil company’s website and corporate emails. They accomplish this job by modifying the domain name after gaining access to the system and redirecting all company web traffic to a malicious website. Some attackers might deface the website for political reasons, but others could steal email communications and sensitive data.

2. Ransomware

Ransomware is a significant issue for oil and gas companies because these hostile programs are readily available to anyone who wishes to damage an organization. Malicious actors can purchase ransomware online and email the file to individuals within the company, infecting and locking the system. The oil and gas firm must then pay a ransom to unlock its systems or run the risk of encountering permanent hardware damage or data loss.

3. Malware

Malware is a file or code that infects a computer or system with malicious intent. Countless types of malware exist, but these programs are typically delivered via a network and used to steal information through a command and control server or automatically destroy data. Oil and gas companies could struggle to eliminate the dangers of malware because there are countless variants and infection methods.

4. Cloud Attacks

Malware can communicate with its command and control server through a legitimate cloud service. This hacking method disguises the command and control server as a safe source, making it more challenging to identify the threat. 

5. Webshells

Webshells are files written in PHP, ASP, or JavaScript languages that hackers will upload onto an oil and gas company’s web server. It doesn’t take much effort to gain access to the web server, and from there, the attacker can download or upload files, run credential-stealing tools, steal data, and bounce traffic to other servers.

6. Mobile Phone Attacks

The mobile workforce is creating new challenges for oil and gas companies as they look to protect themselves. Criminals can now target personal and company phones with malware and gain access to corporate networks when employees use their devices for work purposes. Items this malware can compromise include files, text messages, emails, photos, and video recordings.

7. Zero-Day Exploits

A zero-day attack occurs when a hacker exploits a software or hardware vulnerability before the developers are aware of it. The result is unobstructed access to the system that could lead to significant damage to the oil and gas company’s operations. 

The sheer number of ways malicious parties can access oil and gas company data should create a sense of urgency for all organizations in this field. It could also open up opportunities for startups focusing on protecting firms in this industry.

Protections Are Necessary and Startups Can Help

Startups with an understanding of the unique cyber security challenges the oil and gas industry faces could benefit by focusing on developing new solutions. Investors with a keen eye can also get on board as motivated startups provide the tools these companies require and expand their operations.

Option3 is a cyber security investment firm focusing on industries underserved by the available tools. We bring investors together with organizations looking to address critical cyber security inefficiencies, improving protections in the process. Contact Option3 for more information on cyber security in the oil and gas industry.


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