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US energy firms vulnerable to cyber attacks

It could affect the competitiveness of energy firms or lead to expensive outages at pipelines, refineries or drilling platforms

By CBR Staff Writer

The US oil and natural gas firms are ever more prone to cyber attacks, which could affect their competitiveness or lead to expensive outages at pipelines, refineries or drilling platforms, according to a report.

Between April and September 2012, the energy business, which includes oil and gas producers, had been hit with more targeted malware attacks than any other industry, according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report, which cited data from Alert Logic.

The report revealed that cyber attacks on energy firms are mainly carried out in two ways, with the first one being cyber espionage, which is carried out by overseas intelligence and defence agencies; prearranged crime, or freelance hackers.

CFR reported that several companies are either unaware of similar attacks or are frightened to disclose them for fear of hurting investors.

Reuters cited CFR Fellow Blake Clayton as saying: "That’s too bad because it makes it harder for Washington to help them and it also makes it harder for the public to be aware of what threats are out there."

The report said that the second main cyber risk to energy firms is the disturbance of critical businesses or physical operations via attacks on networks.

"This has a lower probability but potentially higher cost," Clayton said.

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In 2012, the UAE’s oil firm Saudi Aramco was attacked by a malicious virus that infected about 30,000 of its computers earlier in August 2012.

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