Hackers are threatening the world's oil supply in an increasing wave of cyber attacks, according to top oil company executives, spelling potential devastation for the economy and the environment.
Hackers are threatening the world's oil supply in an increasing wave of cyber attacks, according to top oil company executives.
Oil companies are warning that they are facing more and more attacks on their systems, which could lead to a situation where valves are accessed. This could result in a scenario where oil rigs are set on fire, people are killed, the environment is damaged, production is halted, and oil supply to industrial nations is cut, which in turned would have a monumentally negative financial impact.
“We see an increasing number of attacks on our IT systems and information and there are various motivations behind it – criminal and commercial,” said Ludolf Luehmann, manager of IT at Shell, Europe's largest oil company. “We see an increasing number of attacks with clear commercial interests, focusing on research and development, to gain the competitive advantage.”
This might sound like science-fiction to some, but the reality is that most industries operate on computers that are vulnerable to attack, and hackers are increasing in numbers, becoming more knowledgeable, and making more daring attacks on systems.
The Stuxnet worm, which crippled Iran's nuclear reactors, showed the potential devastation that could be caused by cyber warfare. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, this kind of attack can be replicated on many essential infrastructures systems, including water supplies, electricity grids, and oil production and distribution.
Riemer Brower, head of IT security at Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations, said that the oil industry has so far avoided any major incidents, but qualified this by saying that the companies in charge are no longer really in control.