World Energy Council Report says energy sector prime target for cyber-attacks

The critical role that the energy sector plays in the functioning of a modern economy, with its increasing interconnection and digitisation, make the energy sector a highly attractive target for cyber-attacks aimed at disrupting operations, a new World Energy Council report finds. Energy companies have seen a massive increase in the number of successful cyber-attacks over the past year, the report notes, highlighting that addressing cyber risks is critical not only for energy security, but also for a resilient state and economy. In a worst case scenario these attacks can result in infrastructure shut down, triggering economic and financial disruptions or even loss of life and massive environmental damage.

The report ‘The road to resilience: managing cyber risks’, published by the Council in collaboration with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and Marsh & McLennan Companies, was launched at the Energy Day in Germany on 29 September. The report investigates how cyber risks can be managed taking into account the changing nature of the energy industry and energy infrastructure and includes key recommendations for industry, technology companies, governments, and insurance and finance sectors.

Christoph Frei, Secretary General, World Energy Council,said: “Cyber threats are among top issues keeping energy leaders awake at night in Europe and North America. Over the past three years, we have seen a rapid change from zero awareness to headline presence. Over the coming years we expect cyber risks to increase further and change the way we think about integrated infrastructure and supply chain management.”

Jeroen van der Veer, Executive Chair, Financing Resilient Energy Infrastructure study, and former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, said: “The energy sector must take a systemic approach and assess cyber risks across the entire energy supply chain, improve the protection of energy systems and limit any possible domino effects that might be caused by a failure in one element of the value chain.

‘The road to resilience: managing cyber risks’ is the third in a series of reports that addresses the need for more investment and system change to increase resilience towards emerging risks, besides cyber threats, also including extreme weather and the energy-water-food nexus.

A session at the 23rd World Energy Congress, due in Istanbul on 9-13 October, titled ‘Cyber threat: are we at risk of the lights going out’ will address the issue of cyber-security. Led by Michael Bell, President and CEO of Silver Spring Networks; Steve Holliday, former CEO National Grid; Andrew George, Chairman of Energy Practice, Marsh and Juerg Trueb, Managing Director at Swiss Re. Building, the session will explore the issue of security vis-à-vis the increasing interconnection and digitisation of the energy sector.

The full report and the executive summary can be accessed on the World Energy Council website.

Online registration for the 23rd World Energy Congress closes on 30th September. Register now.