Security
Rigzone | 14 September 2016

Directive Seeks To Coordinate Response to Oil, Gas Cyberattacks

A US presidential policy directive will treat companies targeted by cyberattackers as victims of a crime—and not automatically at fault—as the government looks to create an environment conducive to sharing information on cyberattacks, according to a former official with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

A new presidential directive aims to establish guidelines for a significant cyberattack against US companies, including oil and gas.

The Presidential Policy Directive 41 (PPD 41) on United States Cyber Incident Coordination, signed 26 July by President Obama and now in effect, establishes guidelines for how the US federal government will respond to cyberattacks launched against the public and private sectors.

This includes US companies across a number of industries, including oil and gas. The cybersecurity risks that oil and gas companies face continue to grow, according to the 2016 BDO report Oil & Gas Risk Factor. Risks associated with data breaches have grown from just 12% in 2012 to 74% in 2016, with cybersecurity proving to be a rapidly moving target as bad actors evolve and leverage increasingly sophisticated hacking methods, BDO stated in the report. BDO is an accounting and consulting firm that provides services to more than 400 publicly traded domestic and international clients.

“Cyberincidents are a fact of contemporary life, and significant cyberincidents are occurring with increasing frequency, impacting public and private infrastructure located in the United States and abroad,” the White House said in a 26 July press statement. “While the vast majority of cyberincidents can be handled through existing policies, certain cyberincidents that have more significant impacts on an entity, our national security, or the broader economy require a unique approach to response efforts,” the White House stated.

Rigzone | 6 September 2016

Dealing With Cyberthreats in the Middle East

Since the 2010 discovery of the Stuxnet worm targeted at industrial programmable logic controllers, the Middle East has been central to the increased profile of cybersecurity threats facing industrial enterprises worldwide.

While the threats have continued to evolve, the Middle East remains a key target for attackers. In early 2015, for example, cybersecurity firm Symantec identified a new information harvesting malware—dubbed “Trojan.Laziok”—targeting energy companies worldwide. The most frequent target for these attacks, according to Symentec, were the UAE (25%), Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (10%), and Oman and Qatar (5%).

With attacks increasing both in terms of numbers and sophistication, for most it is not a question of if they are attacked, but when. Whether from enemy states, terrorists, “hacktivists” criminals, or insiders, the risks facing oil and gas producers in the region are ever changing and ever growing.

A survey conducted for Honeywell by researchers Ipsos shows this message has been heard—more than two thirds (69%) in the UAE, for example, fear cyberhackers breaching the defenses of major sectors of the economy, and 64% say oil and gas producers are vulnerable to attack.

Reuters | 1 September 2016

Niger Delta Avengers Says It Has Halted Hostilities in Nigerian Delta

A Nigerian militant group, which has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on oil and gas facilities in the southern Niger Delta energy hub in the last few months, said on 29 August that it had halted hostilities.

An oil slick clots the bottom of mangroves in Bodo creek in Ogoniland, near Nigeria’s oil hub city of Port Harcourt on 4 December 2012. Source: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye/File Photo.

The statement by the Niger Delta Avengers comes just over a week after the militant group said it was ready for a ceasefire and talks with the government.

The swampland region—which produces most of the oil that makes up 70% of government revenue—has been hit by pipeline attacks since January that have cut the OPEC member’s output by 700,000 B/D to 1.56 million B/D.

“We have listened carefully and halted hostilities in the Niger Delta,” said the Avengers in the statement, presented as an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on the group’s website.

Time | 15 August 2016

Iran Investigates if Series of Oil Industry Accidents Were Caused by Cyberattack

After weeks of speculation on the cause of an unprecedented string of fires and explosions in major Iranian oil and gas facilities, Iran’s Supreme National Cyberspace Council has said that it is looking into cyberattacks as a possible cause. “Special teams will be sent to the afflicted sites to study the possibility of cybersystems having a role in the recent fires,” said Abolhasan Firoozabadi, secretary of the council.

The first of the fires, which started on 6 July, in the Bouali petrochemical plant on the Persian Gulf coast, took 3 days to put out and threatened to send toxic clouds of smoke into the nearby city of Mahshahr, with a population of 300,000. There were no fatalities, but damages are estimated to be tens of millions of US dollars, and insurers say it could be the biggest compensation claim in Iran’s history.

Less than 48 hours after the Bouali fire was put out, a worker was killed in the Marun Oil and Gas Production Company when a liquefied gas pipeline exploded. This was followed by a fire in the Bisotoon petrochemical plant in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah on 29 July, which took 2 days to put out.

Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Iran’s petroleum minister, looks on ahead of the 169th Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on 2 June 2016. Photo credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images.

The Iranian Petroleum Ministry, in charge of all of the affected sites denied the plants were sabotaged, and the Iranian oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said the fires and explosions were due to technical faults and human error. However, when an explosion in a gas pipeline near Gonaveh, which killed a worker, and another fire in the Imam Khomeini petrochemical plant occurred within hours of each other on 6 August, the ministry refused to comment until after investigations.

If the cyberspace council does rule that cyberattacks were behind these fires and explosions, it wouldn’t be the first time that Iran’s petroleum industry was the victim of such an attack; in April 2012, a virus forced the ministry to disconnect its main oil terminals and facilities from the Internet to protect them from damage. Officials later claimed that they had traced the service providers used by the attackers back to the US.

Reuters | 1 August 2016

Suspected Militants Attack Shell-Affiliated Pipeline in Nigeria’s Delta

Suspected militants have attacked an oil pipeline operated by a local affiliate of Shell in Nigeria’s restive southern Niger Delta region, locals and a community group said on 1 August.

Militants have attacked oil and gas facilities in the OPEC member’s energy hub over the last few months, cutting the country’s crude production—which stood at 2.2 million B/D) at the start of the year—by around 700,000 B/D.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for a blast at the Trans Ramos Pipeline near Odimodi, operated by Shell’s joint venture SPDC, which locals said happened in the early hours of 31 July shortly after 0100 (0800 EDT). Shell said the line was closed for repairs.

Rigzone | 29 July 2016

Ransomware Poses Potential Threat to Oil, Gas Cybersecurity

The number of cyberattacks against global oil and gas industry’s industrial control systems (ICSs) is expected to keep rising because of the industry’s growing use of automation, Internet of things technologies, and the increasingly unstable geopolitical environment.

Ransomware—a type of malware that infects a device and blocks access to data, then requires a ransom be paid to unlock the device—is expected to emerge as a growing threat to ICSs in a number of industries, including oil and gas, industry insiders say.

Data-wiping malware and cryptomalware are not new, but a form of ransomware, cryptoransomware, has become highly disruptive in recent years, according to a 2016 report by Forcepoint Security Labs, an Austin, Texas-based provider of cybersecurity solutions. Cryptoransomware works by encrypting a user’s files, then offering to sell the victim the decryption key, Forcepoint said. This type of ransomware can affect local files and those hosted on network shares.

Two other common types of ransomware are scareware, a demand for payment based on threat of future action, and lockers, which promise to restore user access to their screen or system in exchange for a fee.

Rigzone | 27 July 2016

Niger Delta Avengers Attack Another Pipeline

Nigerian militant group the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) claimed late 24 July that it has blown up another pipeline.

In a statement issued by spokesperson Brigadier General Mudoch Agbinibo on the group’s website, the NDA said that it had blown up Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC’s) gas pipeline at Nsit-Ibom L.G.A. in Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom state. “NNPC should check their pipeline if it’s ‘system anomaly’,” Agbinibo said.

The NDA—an organized and determined group described by security experts as “sophisticated” and having access to inside knowledge—has carried out several similar attacks in recent months. These include the destruction of wells operated by Chevron, while the group has also threatened to sink oil tankers in spite of a policy of not taking lives.

Oil and Gas facilities | 21 July 2016

Insider Threats Discussed at Cybersecurity Panel

Despite the significant and growing threat of cyberattacks oil and gas producers face, there is a persistent lack of awareness and understanding of the vulnerabilities present in the industrial control systems used for energy production and distribution operations. A panel of experts discussed the potential cybersecurity risks companies face from malicious actors, as well as risk mitigation strategies and emerging security standards in a session, “Cyber Security Assurance: Data and Critical Infrastructure Protection,” held at the 2016 Offshore Technology Conference.

Andrew Howard, director of the Cyber Technology and Information Security Laboratory at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, said cybersecurity risk is a pressing concern for all sectors of the industry, and that companies should not place the burden of handling cyberthreats solely on their information technology (IT) departments.

“It’s no longer just an IT problem,” Howard said. “It’s a multidisciplinary problem that covers just about every field. When we talk cybersecurity to complex organizations, it’s no longer about the IT channel. It’s also the upstream, the downstream, and the finances. It’s in human resources. It spreads over the entire organization, and it’s everyone’s problem.”

A common misconception companies have with regards to cybersecurity is that the “air gap,” or the physical isolation of a secure computer network from unsecured networks, is an effective strategy. Howard said a dedicated security protocol focused on physical systems must include basic cyberhygiene and asset inventory capabilities, even if it is not connected to unsecured networks.

Dawn Cappelli, vice president of information risk management at Rockwell Automation, said the biggest security threats companies face are from insiders, typically disgruntled former employees with technical knowledge and a personal predisposition to cause harm.

“People will cross that ethical line and steal your information because they rationalize in their mind why it’s OK: ‘I created that, that’s mine.’ Most people will not cross that ethical line, but the people who do tend not to get along well with other people. You have to walk on eggshells around them. They don’t take criticism well,” Cappelli said.

Early Implementation Key To Combating Cybersecurity Threats

By Stephen Whitfield, Oil and Gas Facilities Staff Writer

The business networks and technological systems that make up data-driven oil fields are susceptible to outside attacks and potential failures. As cyberattackers find ways to exploit the vulnerabilities in present security systems, the industry continues to develop more robust cybersecurity controls to protect its assets. It is important to implement these controls early in the project life cycle, an expert said.

During a Society of Petroleum Engineers webinar, “Protecting the Digital Oil Field From Emerging Cyber Threats,” Ayman al-Issa outlined various controls companies may put into the designs of their digital infrastructures. Al-Issa is the chief technologist of industrial cybersecurity at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Al-Issa said the nature of the cybersecurity threat has expanded beyond the spread of viruses and stealing data. Hackers now possess the capability to, among other things, increase pressure in a pipeline, change the parameter settings of field devices, close and open motorized valves, and cause a denial of service attack within an incident command system. An effective process control security system could be critical to preventing a disaster.

Companies help open the doors for potential attacks by incorrectly assuming a low security risk. Al-Issa said that, among other things, some companies presume they are not likely targets or that their business is not interesting enough to attract attention from hackers. They believe that having a proprietary production system, or isolating that system from other systems, provides an extra layer of security. However, as some sectors in the industry develop a more technologically integrated ecosystem, al-Issa said the risk of attacks will continue to increase.

“We need to realize that these attacks are not science fiction. They are realistic. Companies have started to realize the concern with critical infrastructures. We do have to take things more seriously, and we have to find ways to secure those critical infrastructures,” he said.

Read the full story here.

View the webinar here.

 

Rigzone | 12 July 2016

Islamic State, Political Instability Derail Libyan Oil Industry

Ongoing militant attacks on hydrocarbon installations in Libya have helped stem the production of oil in the country to well below pre-2011 output levels.

“Such activity, in combination with oil embargoes, has contributed to an 80% fall in national oil output since 2011,” said Ruth Lux, a senior consultant within JLT’s credit, political, and security risk division consulting team.

For most of the last 2 years, oil production in Libya has been stuck at around 300,000 to 400,000 B/D, Martijn Murphy, research manager for Wood Mackenzie’s Middle East and North Africa upstream oil and gas team said.

This output drop is not good news for the country considering it’s one of the most dependent oil economies in the world, according to a study by Bloomberg released in January.

Since the start of 2016, Islamic State (IS) has launched a number of attacks on Libya’s oil and gas assets.

In January, IS set fire to oil storage tanks in an assault on the Ras Lanuf terminal in northern Libya, and the group is suspected to have staged an attack on a water plant near the Sarir oil field in eastern Libya in March. An attempted assault on an oil field on 2 April led to the death of two guards, and it was revealed on 10 April that staff from three oilfields in eastern Libya had been evacuated because of fears of further attacks.

Following the latest assaults, the most senior United Nations official in Libya, Martin Kobler, said he was deeply concerned.

“The attacks of the so called Islamic State … are a serious threat to Libya’s oil installations,” said Kobler, the special representative of the secretary-general and head of the UN support mission in Libya, in a 27 April press release.

Reuters | 12 July 2016

Militants Blow Up Oil Pipelines in Nigeria’s Southern Niger Delta

Militants launched a fresh round of attacks on oil pipelines in Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta energy hub belonging to Italy’s Eni and Aiteo, Nigerian security forces, Eni, and a militant group said.

The attacks are the latest in a spate targeting oil and gas facilities in the OPEC member’s Niger Delta region over the last few months, which briefly pushed oil production this spring to 30-year lows.

The renewed violence could further cut into exports that were depressed as a result of infrastructure damage, underscoring the serious security threat to the oil production on which Nigeria relies for around 70% of its revenue.

Niger Delta Avengers, the group that has carried out most of the attacks, said on its website that it blew up the Nembe 1, 2, and 3 trunkline, which is owned by the Aiteo group, in Bayelsa and Rivers states in an early hours attack.

A spokesman for Eni confirmed that a separate attack on a crude pipeline in Bayelsa state, operated through its subsidiary, Nigerian Agip Oil Company, had taken place. No group has claimed responsibility for that attack.

The company said the impact on the group’s equity production was 4,000 BOE/D.

Bloomberg | 5 July 2016

Nigeria Gunmen Attack Oil Boat Crew, Kill Two People

Gunmen in Nigeria opened fire on a boat transporting Eni workers in the oil-rich Niger River delta, killing at least two people, the company said.

The team was attacked on 29 June “on the way to a well location for routine operations in the Nembe area,” Rome-based Eni said in an emailed statement on 2 July. “Three members of the team managed to escape.”

The bodies of the two that were missing were found 2 days later, the oil producer said. Security agencies are investigating the incident, according to the company. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, said Desmond Agu, the local commandant of the Civil Defence Force, whose agency had been part of the search party that recovered the bodies.