FBI Expert: Companies Are Cyber-Threat Targets Whether They Think So or Not

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A cyber-threats expert from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) told an audience at the recent American Petroleum Institute Cybersecurity Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, that oil and gas companies are at risk from potential cyberattacks and must do more to protect themselves.

Speaking on 7 November at a conference session on cyberattacks and emerging threats, FBI Computer Scientist James Morrison said that all companies need to be prepared to defend their enterprise and operating systems against such attacks of all kinds. Based in Houston, Morrison is a technical expert on information technology who works on cases that come into the bureau.

“Too many companies are thinking they’re not targeted,” Morrison said. “That is not the reality. Every single one of you will be attacked, if you have not already been attacked, and you’ve got to protect your data. You’ve got to protect the industrial control systems behind that data.”

Attacks on the Rise
During 2016, 75% of oil and gas companies had at least one cyberattack incident, according to Morrison. Attacks are on the rise to the point where “we’re actually getting a little numb about too many attacks,” he said.

More than 200 groups worldwide, including some linked to national governments, are thought to be involved in cyberattacks on US installations. The number appears to be growing, Morrison said, with the rise of criminal activity on the dark web.

“I, as a nation state, don’t even have to develop my own ransomware anymore,” he said. “I can actually hire somebody to develop ransomware and have it brought to me,” which has lowered barriers to entering cyberattack activities.

“And from an oil and gas standpoint, they’re not just targeting you, they’re targeting your subcontractors, and they’re targeting your law firms,” he said. “We’ve seen a number of law firms get hit because of the contract information that they have on you.”

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