Four key ways to limit cyberattacks on critical energy infrastructure


As the energy sector continues to record an increase in cyberattacks on grid networks, how can the resilience of critical infrastructure be ensured?

We explore some of the recommendations provided by stakeholders within the cybersecurity industry and measures being adopted by technology companies to enhance the security frameworks of energy companies.

  1. New cybersecurity approaches

According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future Series: Cybercrime 2025 initiative designed to address increasing cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, current cybersecurity mechanisms are outdated and are not in line with the fast-moving pace of digitalisation. The initiative has called for the development of new approaches through collaboration between energy companies, technology providers, academia and governments.

In line with the call for increased collaboration and for the development of new solutions, technology companies Siemens Energy and ServiceNow have partnered to integrate their security platforms. The two companies claim that the technologies to monitor critical infrastructure and to detect cyberattacks are already there, but missing in the puzzle is rapid responses from energy companies in the event of an attack. They claim that there is a need for energy companies to be powered to be able to quickly assess, prioritise and act against cyberattacks at machine speed. Siemens Energy will be providing its artificial intelligence-based detection and response software for integration with ServiceNow’s operational technology management system.

Have you read?
$6 million boost for US-Israel cybersecurity collaboration
5G functionality can reduce grid cybersecurity risks, researchers show
Siemens Energy meets UK’s cybersecurity requirements across 12 sites

Siemens Energy claims its platform provides energy companies with real-time visibility of events within their grid networks whilst ServiceNow’s solution connects cyber threats and digital workflows to enable analysts to quickly assess events. Using AI and OT in cybersecurity frameworks enables the creation of a digital twin which will compare billions of real-time data points against a correctly functioning asset. This enables analysts to determine abnormal events and their consequences.

The integration will enable companies to act with Precision Defense, a response method to deploy appropriate, targeted, and proportionate measures to correct and recover from cyber incidents. In addition to improving the response time for utilities, the method improves efficiency and reduces operating costs for energy companies, claims the two companies.

Marshall Tyler, vice president of Industry Solutions at ServiceNow, adds: “The ability to quickly turn data into action is critical to being able to proactively, reactively and remotely mitigate cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure. Yet, this is one of the biggest challenges for industrial innovation.”

Ken Xie, Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Fortinet, said: “There must now be a different approach to cybersecurity. Our current approach is unsustainable.”

2. Increasing investments in cybersecurity

As an increasing number of companies continue to integrate physical and digital assets to achieve energy transition goals, the vulnerability of grid networks and other critical infrastructure to cyberattacks is also going to increase. If security could be considered as an integral component of technology innovations, cyberattacks would occur less today and in the future. Since the start of the pandemic, reports show a 300% increase in cybercrime, according to the FBI.

The WEF is therefore calling for governments and companies to increase investments in the research and development of advanced solutions that meet the demand from integrated physical and digital assets.

3. Addressing the skills gap

There is already a global capacity shortage in cybersecurity (specialists and throughout the wider workforce) and as new technologies emerge, the skills gap in delivering cybersecurity will widen hence the need to equip the workforce with more cybersecurity skills.

4. A united approach

Emerging technologies are driving an increasing interdependence and entanglement between policy and technology at a time when the global governance of cyberspace is weak. Regulatory requirements are increasing and are often different between jurisdictions, according to WEF, yet there is a need to come up with globally acceptable standards to avoid or reduce attacks.

The World Economic Forum stated: “Unless action is taken now, by 2025 next-generation technology, on which the world will increasingly rely, has the potential to overwhelm the defences of the global security community. Next-generation technologies have the potential to generate new risks for the world, and at this stage, their full impact is not well understood. There is an urgent need for collective action, policy intervention and improved accountability for government and business.”