From geopolitical conflicts and events to environmental activism and cyber attacks, the energy industry is being called upon to manage a growing number of increasingly diverse and continually shifting external shocks and threats.

Threats to the energy industry now have an increasingly broad footprint. Never before have the physical and digital domains been so connected in the energy world, putting it more at risk from cyber attacks. And with the growing sophistication of malware and the availability of malware-as-a-service, it is now relatively simple for cyber criminals, activist groups and state-sponsored hackers to launch attacks against critical national infrastructure providers in the energy sector.

We have seen high-profile, headline making cyber attacks on European oil terminals, pipeline systems and power generation sites. Some stemmed from vulnerabilities in corporate IT systems while others originated in operational technology (OT) networks.

Energy companies must also protect against threats that emanate in the physical world, such as adverse weather and geopolitical events, to safeguard their people, facilities and operations. These threats move quickly and are sometimes difficult to predict and/or detect.

In response, security leaders in the energy industry are reviewing their security operations to develop a better connected and more formalized approach to detecting and mitigating a multiplicity of risks.

The changing face of security operations

To help protect against today’s ever-expanding attack surface, many energy organizations have turned to security operations centers (SOCs)—centralized security hubs run by a team of security professionals responsible for monitoring, detecting and responding to risks, incidents and crises in a formal and consistent manner. A well-built, well-run SOC gives organizations better visibility of potential threats, allowing them to strengthen their security posture.

But building and maintaining an effective SOC is no simple matter. There are several
challenges and key considerations to take into account, including but not limited to:

  • Whether the SOC should adopt a converged approach to security, bringing the cyber and physical security teams under the purview of a single security function.
  • Whether to opt for a centralized or decentralized security model, managing risks collectively on a local or regional basis.
  • Whether certain security operations responsibilities would be better outsourced, or if sufficient capability exists within the wider organization.

While some characteristics of high-performing SOCs can be replicated across different organizations, there is no definitive blueprint. What is right for one organization might prove to be ineffective for another. Therefore, any decisions on whether or not to build a SOC must be taken with a deep understanding of an energy company’s specific security needs.

These are not linear decisions. Risk is in a state of constant evolution, with different threats and new vectors emerging on a daily basis. To counter them, security operations must be in continual motion too.

While this speaks to an inherent need for agility and adaptability, it also demands a specific approach to intelligence. In order to monitor, interpret and act upon security risks to an appropriate degree, security pros need a comprehensive view of them.

The real-time intelligence imperative

As noted above, the operational complexities inherent to the energy industry make it difficult to establish a universal model for a high-performing SOC. Nonetheless, what holds true for most SOCs is the need for real-time information to ensure teams know about potential threats and crises as soon as possible, such as data breaches, supply chain disruptions or impending storms. They can then mitigate and respond to the risks more quickly.

For example, in 2021, Dataminr’s real-time alerting solution, Dataminr Pulse, alerted
customers to network issues surrounding the Colonial Pipeline attack a full day before media coverage began. It also delivered early warnings of the 2022 cyber attacks against European oil refining ports and satellite provider Viasat.

Specifically, the real-time nature of these alerts allows the SOC to detect potential risks to minimize their impact, prevent them from worsening or—in some cases—even stop them from developing in the first place. Certainly, a more informed SOC can ensure that the company is as well-prepared as possible to deal with potential risks—which will contribute to a better standard of protection—for employees, for customers and for an energy company’s long-term reputation.

Enhancing security operations in energy

As we have seen, there are any number of ways to approach the concept of a SOC.
Therefore, it will be important to address the following:

  • Consider all the internal and external threats and attack vectors your company faces.
  • Map your SOC strategy and roadmap to the operational needs of the business.
  • Build your SOC with agility in mind, embracing new threat detection capabilities as they appear.
  • Ensure access to real-time intelligence and embed vital early warning signals to support an informed, proactive response.

See how Dataminr Pulse can support your SOC planning. 

June 21, 2023
  • Corporate Security
  • Cyber Risk
  • Insight

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