2021 cybersecurity threats to the energy and utilities sector (& how to solve them)

2021 cybersecurity threats to the energy and utilities sector (& how to solve them)


Accelerated digital transformation in the energy and utilities sector is causing a significant increase in cyberattacks. This article identifies areas that hackers are likely to target and how you can stop them in their tracks. 

Pressure to reduce emissions, growing service expectations from consumers and fluctuating demand caused by the pandemic mean that the energy and utilities sector are under pressure to embrace new technologies. And quickly.

Accelerated by the pandemic, fast innovation has opened the sector up to a new range of cyber threats, which is why we predict that energy and utility companies will invest heavily in 'intelligent cybersecurity' in 2021

As found in our recent Technology Strategy Guide for the Energy and Utilities Sector, rebuilding consumer trust is vital to recovering from disruption. Data security is central to that trust, with 47% of recently surveyed respondents having confirmed that they would leave their energy supplier if it suffered a cybersecurity breach. 

Download the Technology Strategy Guide

With more than 30x more cyberattacks in the energy & utilities sector since the start of 2020, we highlight the areas that suppliers need to guard in 2021 to stay protected.

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Target 1 – new cloud infrastructures  

Highlighted by MIT Technology  Review, the pandemic has generated a huge demand for redesigned IT infrastructures that can support new business models and ways of working. 

There are two reasons why many c-level executives (i.e. CEOs, CIOs, CTOs) are investing in cloud-based technologies as the solution:
 

    1. Transformative potential: cloud computing has strong potential as the foundation to an efficient, resilient, and scalable digital footprint for an organisation;
    2. Cost: the cloud can be a cost-effective means to access best-in-class intelligence technologies that could see organisations emerge from the pandemic even stronger.


Still, transitioning from servers to platforms like Azure and Amazon Web Services can be daunting and mean reworking IT security processes that have taken decades to develop. It isn't rare for a transition like this to lead to increased security risks.

In McAfee's 2019 'Data Dispersion, Cloud Adoption and Risk Report', they found that 52% of surveyed companies who use cloud services have had data stolen during a breach. 

 

The solution - cloud security monitoring

Cloud Security Monitoring solutions should be a priority for any energy or utility company with a cloud infrastructure, but choosing a solution that fits your organisation can be a tricky balance.

You must provide enough information so that your IT team can manage security risks, over-privileged access, and spend anomalies without overwhelming them with data or alerts. 

If your IT team is small, its worth considering a solution that offers access to a larger, external team of cybersecurity experts to complement your own. Alternatively, intelligent solutions can help to manage workloads and prevent cybersecurity from becoming overwhelming. 

As in our 2021 Technology Trends for the energy and utilities sector, we recommend Red Cloak Threat Detection from SecureWorks. Their platform uses advanced analytics and threat intelligence to manage incidents and only alert users when human attention is required.

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Target 2 – data 

Confirmed by the Energy Expert Cyber Security Platform in 2017, smart devices and data communication is the foundation of infrastructures in many European energy systems. 

As data is a significant target for cybercriminals, organisations can't afford to overlook vulnerable endpoints like bespoke and expensive equipment running on old technology (drills in the oil industry, for example).

With access to so much sensitive customer information, energy and utility suppliers must take every reasonable step to protect that information. 

 

The solution - endpoint security

Solutions like the VMware Carbon Black endpoint protection platform (EPP) use layered protection (including file reputation and heuristics, machine learning, and behavioural models) to analyse endpoint activity and block attacks before they reach essential systems.

However, this isn't the only reason why we recommend this solution to the energy and utilities sector. Another reason is that VMware Carbon Black EPP is operated from a single, easy-to-use single cloud platform and agent. 

To monitor a large endpoint network, you either need a sizable team, which can be costly, or you need a smaller team which is supported by a simplified security stack. Without either, endpoint security can quickly become challenging to manage and a vulnerability that is exploited. 

Solutions like VMware Carbon Black EPP are built to solve that problem. 

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The last line of cybersecurity defence - remediation 

No matter how resilient your cybersecurity is, an organisation's final line of defence to a cyberattack is its response to a breach. 

There are excellent, free guides online that can help organisations to protect themselves - including strategic responses to a successful breach.

We recommend downloading the full guide linked above, but we've outlined some of the key steps below: 

Expert support: Do you have a network of cybersecurity experts that you can contact in the event of an incident? If not, it's worth listing all experts in your organisation that could support your IT team during an emergency (this is worth doing for any external cybersecurity specialists you work with too).

Record important information like contact details and any specific areas of expertise that these colleagues have. Having a list like this available, and making sure your team knows where to find it, will give your team a chance to get help and react quickly to an incident. 

Chain of decision: One of the hardest parts of recovering from a disaster is decision authority. Decide who makes the tough calls beforehand to limit back-and-forth delays during a breach.  

Restore checks and safety: Viruses can be undetected and dormant in back up files. When the conditions are right to restore, scan your backups for malware first to ensure that you don't reintroduce a threat into your system.

By following these steps, you can build more resilience into your IT environment and stay secure . 



Guides like this are useful, but sometimes the thing you need most is to speak to an expert and check that you're on the right track. The good news is that we are an accredited Ministry of Defence security specialist and a global leader in IT security.

Click the button below to book a free, no-obligation security workshop and discuss your cybersecurity with one of our experts.Book my free cybersecurity workshop