Unlike most parts of the oil and gas value chain, pipelines represent the true convergence of information technology (IT) and OT, making cybersecurity critical to safe operation. However, the vast majority of midstream infrastructure in operation today was not designed with connectivity in mind. Digital capabilities have simply been bolted on top. This integration of the physical and digital worlds has made infrastructure more vulnerable to increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. 

Today, the core challenge for protecting connected midstream assets, such as compressor stations, is visibility. Operators cannot protect what they cannot see. Most companies are not aware of the threats that lie within their fleet, how vulnerable they are or what actions they should take to prevent attacks. 

Digitalization, and more specifically, the application of security analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), hold the key to protecting infrastructure from cyber threats. However, the energy industry has historically been unable to apply these tools to identify malicious threats within distributed OT systems. 

As we see more advanced threat scenarios, we also see advancements in the technologies needed to counter them, with data analytics and AI leading the way. Armed with these tools, companies can “own their environment” by significantly improving detection when an operation system is being attacked and implementing effective measures to ensure safety and reduce overall risk. 

The power of analytics and AI

Siemens recognized the growing need for a holistic cybersecurity solution that could address the unique challenges presented by distributed energy infrastructure. That is why they partnered with Chronicle, an Alphabet Inc. company, to apply the power of analytics and AI to secure pipeline networks. (Alphabet owns Google). Through a unified approach that will leverage Chronicle’s Backstory platform and Siemens’ strength in industrial cybersecurity, the combined offering gives energy customers unparalleled visibility across IT and OT so they can quickly detect and confidently act on threats. 

This partnership between Siemens and Chronicle helps the industry securely and cost-effectively leverage the cloud to store and categorize data, while applying analytics, AI and machine learning to identify patterns, anomalies and cyber threats within OT systems. 

Industry-government collaboration 

When it comes to cybersecurity in oil and gas the most important idea that companies must embrace going forward is that securing their environment is not something they can achieve on their own. It will require collaboration between industry and government and a strengthening of trust in the digital world. 

To achieve this, Siemens initiated the world’s first-ever joint charter for cybersecurity—called the “Charter of Trust.” The Charter of Trust points out 10 areas for action in cybersecurity where government and business must become equally active. It calls for establishing responsibility for cybersecurity at the highest levels of government and businesses and for introducing a dedicated ministry in government and a Chief Information Security Officer at companies. 

It also calls for mandatory, independent certification for critical IoT applications. Above all, it aims to create an industrial environment in which cybersecurity is addressed proactively so that companies, including oil and gas operators, can realize the full potential of digital transformation. 

Air gapping 

Given that the likelihood of being attacked in today’s environment is 100%, pipeline operators cannot wait any longer to address cybersecurity. Many mistakenly believe that the only way to protect their assets is to “air gap,” an absence of a direct or indirect connection between a computer and the Internet for security reasons.

Air gapping focuses on minimizing connectivity, which prevents companies from reaping all the benefits that digitalization has to offer. It also limits visibility into the operating environment, which makes it all but impossible to recognize abnormalities and react when a cyberattack does inevitably occur. 

Inside threats 

It is essential that companies view cybersecurity not as a seatbelt or an airbag in the digital world, but rather as a crucial component to their success in the digital economy. Data and security analytics hold great promise in identifying and thwarting sophisticated machine speed attacks, which require immediate levels of response and pattern recognition. 

This innovative OT-managed service from Siemens and Chronicle leverages analytics and AI to unlock the value of security data—providing cyber protection across the entire midstream operating environment.

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