Yes, Let’s Talk About How Industry is Advancing Cybersecurity
Posted September 7, 2018
Cybersecurity continues to be a major focus of the natural gas and oil industry, which recognizes that the need to protect the country’s energy infrastructure is vital for our economy and security. According to federal officials, cyberattacks are increasing across many industries, which has the attention of corporate executives in our industry and reinforces their ongoing efforts to keep our nation’s pipelines and other natural gas and oil facilities safe.
Even so, because natural gas is the leading fuel for generating electricity, there have been calls for congressional hearings to discuss threats to the U.S. natural gas pipeline network. It’s a conversation our industry welcomes. Here’s why:
Actions, not processes, protect our infrastructure
- Close cooperation with federal officials
- Individual company cybersecurity programs that are aligned with a cybersecurity framework established by the federal government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NSIT), a framework used by other industries and sectors.
- Membership in the Oil and Natural Gas Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ONG-ISAC). More than 50 natural gas and oil companies – including a number of the nation’s largest natural gas pipeline operators – share cyberthreat intelligence with each other through the ONG-ISAC.
Systematic management, flexibility and agility
This is the heart of a comprehensive approach that’s based on robust governance, systematic risk-based management and multi-dimensional programs that use the best international cybersecurity standards and proven networks, such as the NIST.
Our security approach spans the breadth of natural gas and oil development, from the wellhead to pipelines to the supplying of power generators and natural gas utilities to fuel manufacturing and gasoline stations.
We believe relying on this approach and these frameworks, with public-private cooperation at the center, is superior to prescriptive regulation – that is, to new layers of regulation and government management, which some advocate. Industry’s current approach provides needed flexibility and agility to meet the ever-changing nature of cyberthreats.
Preparation for all hazards
Industry’s infrastructure is highly automated and relies on complex industrial control systems. These include supervisory control and data acquisition, process control networks and distributed control systems, which keep operations running. In addition, industry:
- Plans for and conducts exercises that test responses various threat scenarios
- Applies initiatives and activities developed by government, industry or through partnerships to address a wide array of potential threats and hazards
- Shares threat and risk information in classified briefings
- Constantly works to improve information sharing
- Develops situational awareness reports
As discussed in this post, the natural gas industry and its infrastructure are resilient in the face of the cyberthreat, extreme weather and direct physical threat. That’s what the Natural Gas Council found in a report issued earlier this year. From the report:
The physical operations of natural gas production, transmission and distribution make the system inherently reliable and resilient. Disruptions to natural gas service are rare. When they do happen, a disruption of the system does not necessarily result in an interruption of scheduled deliveries of natural gas supply because the natural gas system has many ways of offsetting the impact of disruptions. [T]here is low risk of single point of disruption (regardless of cause) resulting in uncontrollable, cascading effects.
Again, the cybersecurity discussion is one that industry welcomes, because a lot of hard work – not always apparent to the public eye – already is ongoing to continually strengthen the nation’s energy infrastructure.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and four grandchildren.
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