Digitalization has significantly transformed all areas of life in the 21st century, and the energy sector has also gotten its share from this change. However, the modern age, when the digital transformation has become such an important variable, brings with it threats of cyberattacks. Digital threats can lead to various data breaches, which makes taking cybersecurity measures a must. Institutions in the energy sector need to take some precautions regarding access security to prevent loss of reputation and economic damage.
Why is the Energy Sector Vulnerable?
It is probably better to address why the energy sector is so vulnerable in terms of cybersecurity before examining in detail the precautions that the institutions in this sector need to take in order to ensure data security.
The kinds of cyberattacks most frequently faced by electricity, oil, and petroleum companies, which are the central players of the energy sector, include threats such as ransomware, data theft, and bill fraud, which are faced by companies in other sectors as well. However, since the impact of the cyber threats with which the energy sector struggles will also negatively affect the public services at large, these threats are very critical.
Indeed, the fact that the energy sector is largely vulnerable is related to this. Cybercriminals who target the energy sector with a desire to make a financial gain and shut down infrastructure services may attack not only IT networks but even a gas company's pipeline operation. In fact, it is easier for cybercriminals to target physical components rather than networks. The complex organizational structures of the institutions in the energy sector and the fact that the geographical distance to the physical components is way too much to take quick precautions make the energy sector very defenseless against cyber threats.
Recently, there have been developments in the United States of America that reveal the vulnerabilities of the energy sector to such threats and why security measures should be taken against cyber threats. On May 7, 2021, American Colonial Pipeline was subjected to a ransomware attack. In addition, according to a statement by the United States Department of Homeland Security, a cyberattack occurred in February 2020 that rendered a natural gas compressor plant inoperable for two days.
As seen in these instances, ransomware attacks are such an important problem that they can inflict the energy sector and societies with long-term losses.
ISO 27001 and False Facts Known to be True
In order to avoid cyberattacks such as the ones we mentioned, the energy sector is bound to take some precautions. However, both the poor implementation of the regulations and the false facts prevent the energy sector from being successfully protected against data breaches.
The fundamental cybersecurity regulation related to the energy sector in Turkey is ISO 27001. This regulation, which entered into force in 2014 after being published in the Official Gazette, stipulates that companies in the energy sector are required to establish an IT management system in line with the ISO standards. Companies that establish an IT management system in accordance with these standards are entitled to receive the ISO 27001 certificate, but having this certificate is not enough by itself in establishing complete protection against cyber threats. In addition to ISO 27001, different cybersecurity solutions should be taken into consideration as well.
On the other hand, misconceptions about cybersecurity and Operational Technology (OT) in the energy sector also expose energy companies to these threats. For example, it has been always claimed that air-gapping is one of the best ways to ensure security in OT systems. However, today, cyber attackers can easily infiltrate air-gapped networks using laptops and USB devices. Another relevant myth is that firewalls will protect your company from all kinds of threats. It is worth noting that it is not possible for a standalone firewall to provide outstanding protection.
Privileged Access Management (PAM)
Privileged Access Management (PAM) is one of the best ways to eliminate cybersecurity threats in the energy sector against data and access security.
Providing secure remote access for IoT devices and third parties, PAM helps to monitor and control the access and activities of all privileged accounts. Privileged Access Management, which implements automatic password checks, enables the storage of all credentials, including passwords, in encrypted vaults. All these features are made possible thanks to the modules included in the PAM.
Privileged Session Manager: Allowing the monitoring of all privileged accounts on the network, PSM makes it easier to organize workflows by assigning authorized access. This module works in line with the "Principle of Least Privilege".
Dynamic Password Controller: This module, which has a password vault feature, enables the storing of all passwords and credentials of privileged accounts in password vaults, isolated from the public network.
Database Access Manager: This module enables the recording of every single activity in the system. Thus, an activity cannot be carried out a second time in the system. This enables to reveal possible cyberattacks. In the Database Access Manager module, the method of data masking is used for data entry.
One of the best solutions for protecting critical energy infrastructures, Privileged Access Management performs the functions of monitoring, protection, and control perfectly. As Kron, with our PAM product Single Connect, we provide an extensive cybersecurity solution that addresses the concerns of energy companies regarding data and access security.