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Why Cybersecurity is Crucial in the Energy Industry

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Team Energy Exemplar

This blog is part of a series on cloud solutions and cybersecurity. Subscribe to our blog to stay up to date on the latest publications in the series!

In our last cloud focused blog, we discussed the challenges energy utilities and organizations are experiencing which are driving them to adopt cloud technologies.  However, as the energy industry adopts these critical solutions, security concerns must be considered.  Cybersecurity serves as the frontline of defense against a wide range of threats including data breaches, identity theft and ransomware attacks – and these threats are even more profound in the energy industry.  In this blog, we discuss the key reasons why cybersecurity is particularly important in the energy industry.   

In the modern era, energy and electricity have become essential services which we rely on to power and heat our homes, conduct business, fuel our transportation, provide critical medical services, and more.  Because of this, the energy industry is a prime target for cyberattacks.  Here are some of the specifics on why cybersecurity is particularly crucial in the energy industry.  

  • Energy Infrastructure is Critical Infrastructure – Energy infrastructure is considered critical infrastructure since the economy, as well as the safety and health of citizens, depends on the reliable delivery of power and energy.   Cyberattacks can lead to extremely serious power and energy supply disruptions, and the consequences can be dire – with the potential for economic losses, damage to critical infrastructure, and loss of life.  Energy is so important, that vulnerabilities can be matters of national security as attacks on energy infrastructure can be used as a form of cyber warfare or terrorism.  
  • Data is Growing – As we mentioned in our last blog, the amount of data that utilities and energy organizations are collecting, analyzing, and storing is increasing exponentially.  This data includes customer information, operational data, and intellectual property.  This data is appealing to cybercriminals, and it must be protected by the organizations responsible for it.  
  • Extreme Financial Risk – Successful cyberattacks are very expensive for the victim – it can result in losses due to downtime, the cost of resolving the attack, and can cause reputational ruin and incur regulatory fines.  
  • Regulatory Pressures – The energy and utilities sector is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world. As a result, organizations are under intense scrutiny, and failure to comply with industry regulations can result in fines and penalties.  
  • Complexity is Increasing – In the energy industry, the cyber landscape is becoming increasingly complex.  Energy organizations must contend with ever-present cyber threats and geopolitical uncertainties.  In addition, they bear the brunt of the responsibility for decarbonizing, and enabling a successful energy transition. This means accommodating more complex connections to the grid and energy infrastructure, all while navigating a dynamic regulatory and policy landscape.  Increasingly, utilities and energy organizations are not simply protecting data in one location – they are required to protect data in motion, across a variety of channels, and with multiple interconnections.  

Cloud-Specific Data Concerns 

As the energy industry adopts cloud technologies there are some additional concerns - particularly around data - that must be considered and addressed.  As mentioned above, utilities and energy organizations are collecting, analyzing, and storing more data than ever before. So, as these organizations transition capabilities to cloud solutions, they must take extra care with this data. Some of the specific concerns when it comes to data and cloud technologies are:    

  • Unauthorized users gaining access to internal organizational data 
  • Data becoming exposed or leaked  
  • Data becoming compromised because of an attack or damage to other businesses in a multi-tenant environment 
  • Data loss if data is not backed up or protected sufficiently 
  • Data passing among data centers and clouds, and over public networks becomes vulnerable  
  • Loss of data if an attack cripples or destroys cloud infrastructure 

Failure to protect data and assets can have dire consequences for the organization affected and its financial bottom line, as well as citizens, and national security.  And, as the adoption of cloud technologies and digital transformation becomes essential for these organizations, cybersecurity becomes an increasingly important concern and requirement.  Traditional approaches to security are no longer sufficient, and a solid cybersecurity foundation will be mandatory for a successful digital transformation.  For that reason, in the next part of this series, we will be covering best practices for the industry to adopt to build a strong cybersecurity foundation and protect themselves against cyberthreats to the greatest degree possible. Subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss the next part in this series!  

Can’t wait for more? Check out our recent blog summarizing the recent Cybersecurity Baselines released by NARUC and the U.S. DOE, as well as our blog on the potential security benefits of cloud solutions, and some details on the best-in-class security offered with PLEXOS Cloud.

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Team Energy Exemplar

We love it when our blogs come from specific people but often it's a team effort. These blogs are written by the numerous outstanding people at Energy Exemplar.