A recent attack on a shared data network forced four of the United States natural-gas pipeline operators to temporarily shut down computer communications with their customers over the past week.

Pipeline operators impacted by this attack include Oneok; Energy Transfer Partners; Boardwalk Pipeline Partners; and Eastern Shore Natural Gas. No gas service operations were affected by this incident, and the interruption of customer transactions was merely a precautionary act.

The attack was targeting Latitude Technologies, a Texas-based provider of electronic data sharing between pipeline companies and their gas producer and utility customers. The company handles the critical computer communications of gas storage facilities as well as shipping scheduling and sales contracts.

The attack highlights the potential vulnerability of the nation’s energy system. Energy companies possess far more than just consumer and business data, but also propriety information such as information on their holdings, trading strategies, exploration, and production technologies. Like most industries becoming increasingly reliant on digital systems, this increased dependency of pipeline infrastructure on digital systems makes these organizations a prime target for cybercriminals.

The U.S. has over 2.5 million miles of pipelines across the country, and intrusions into systems controlling these pipelines could do far more than disrupt deliveries. Other possible risks include explosions, spilled, or fires, which could directly threaten human life, property, and the environment.

This news comes on the heels of the latest research claiming the majority of critical infrastructure operator’s lack the necessary security controls to protect against potentially devastating cyber-attacks. This is unsettling news as the FBI just recently reported Russia is taking aim at the electric grid and other critical infrastructure with cyber-attacks.

NNT suggests implementing standards such as the NIST 800-171 compliance controls or CIS Critical Security Controls at a minimum to help improve your security posture. These controls are essential to a successful security foundational and outline prioritized, highly focused sets of actions to achieve compliance with government security requirements, but can certainly be applied to other hypersensitive industries like the Energy and Utilities sector.

 

Read the article on the New York Times

 

 

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