By Jens Albom, Nordic Industry Lead, Utility

 

 

 

Energy is a valuable resource. And as with anything else of value, malicious forces will try to get their hands on it. This does not necessarily mean that you can just build a wall and be content within it.

 

The goals and motives for attacks against the energy industry can vary. The only thing that is certain is that the threats are real – both to physical infrastructure and digital assets. And unfortunately, all indications point to a need for a much higher level of preparedness in the coming period.

 

Critical infrastructure and geopolitical turmoil

 

Events on the continent in the last few years have had a major impact on the way we think about security in the energy sector. Just hours after the Nord Stream 2 cable was destroyed and Nord Stream 1 was shut down, unidentifiable drones were spotted over the Norwegian continental shelf.

 

Energy has become a tool in modern warfare. This also means that the defense of the infrastructure on which it depends for production and distribution is a real objective. For those of you who own, operate or manage this infrastructure, development brings with it a great deal of social responsibility.

 

Of course, the national security authorities are painfully aware of this. Where energy management has become a weapon, it is also a key element in the defense strategies as more and more countries are introducing mechanisms to enable redundancy and protection. But does that mean you can be safe as long as you protect your infrastructure?

 

The energy sector is a complex puzzle where more and more pieces are added digitally. In the wrong hands, it doesn't take many missing pieces before you face a real security risk.

 

Can you put a value on your digital assets?

 

It's fine to be able to shut down a power plant in response to a drone sighting, but for most of the assets you need to protect, the keyboard and mouse are bigger threats than a crowbar and a flashlight. Even against seemingly harmless information.

 

When are people home? When are they at work? In what periods does a given company increase its production? This is information that is trivial at best, and at worst the final piece of the puzzle in enabling evil intentions. For some, a floor plan is a work plan – for others, it is a map of attack targets.

 

GDPR has been a great help in terms of data protection security, but not everything is covered by the regulation. You not only have a responsibility to the individual, but also to society as a whole. Electricity grid companies have large amounts of data, which for many can provide a great market advantage. If you start from the premise that all information is potentially valuable to someone, you are well equipped to defend it.

 

Use new technology before the thief does it

 

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Benjamin Franklin. There is definitely something to that. It costs relatively little to protect your business, both physically and digitally, compared to the losses you risk if your defenses crack.

 

Whether you like it or not, your technology (both IT and OT) and your information are strategically important targets for hackers, activists, and foreign powers. And if you don't take these threats seriously, you can expect costly sabotage, industrial espionage or leaks just around the corner.

 

Our best advice to stay one step ahead is to adopt new technology that is adapted to the risks of the world we live in. Unauthorized people will always look for shortcuts and backdoors. Be sure to identify these weaknesses and shut them down before they get the opportunity to use them. There are many tools you can use, from classifying and segmenting data to upgrading physical infrastructure.

 

What about artificial intelligence?

 

We discussed the possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI) in the energy sector in our previous article, but the topic is also highly relevant when it comes to security (especially cybersecurity). And there is a reason for this: AI can quickly become both the question and the answer.

 

As with any technology, the best strategy is often to protect yourself with the same means that attackers will use against you. AI allows for faster and more sophisticated attacks than in the past, but it can also be used to identify and stop them more effectively.

 

Use AI sparingly, but don't be afraid to experiment. On the other hand, those bad-actors do, so it can be good to speak the same language.

 

This article is the third in a series on the energy technology of the future. In the next article, we'll look at sustainability.

 

Article 1: The energy technology of the future: The train rumbles along

 

Article 2: Future energy technology: Artificial intelligence

Want to learn more?

Contact our Sales Director, John T. Hummelgaard, for a discussion about your company's digitization.

John T. Hummelgaard