The oil and gas industry hasn’t been quick to embrace digitalization and IT-OT network convergence. That’s not surprising, given the complexity, dispersed nature and critical societal importance of their infrastructures. With a context like that, who wants to open up networks without carefully considering the risks?
However, as pressure on margins grows in this competitive industry, oil and gas businesses need to extract more value from existing ICS assets. To achieve this, they have started to embrace the opportunities that IT-OT convergence can deliver.
The Risks Are Real…
$5.5 million. That’s how much revenue an oil refinery loses for every day of unplanned downtime – not to mention the $1.4 million of profit that disappears.
Because of this, the complexity that IT-OT integration brings can be worrisome, since it offers cyber adversaries the opportunity to exploit a greater number of network entry points, and also increases the likelihood of malfunctions, misconfigurations, and other operational errors.
Most targeted industries (global). Source: RISI Online Incident Database
IT-OT convergence also increases the number and diversity of people, from the C-Suite to IT, OT and IS departments, who are needed to define and manage the integrated environment. Their job is not made any easier by the fact that specialists in areas like rod pumping are leaving the workforce without being replaced, creating knowledge gaps and further reducing asset visibility.
…But So Are the Opportunities
The World Economic Forum has estimated that by embracing advanced robotics, data analytics and IT-OT convergence, the oil and gas industry could generate $1.6-2.5 trillion dollars in additional value.
In this context, surely greater IT-OT convergence within oil and gas operations is a nice idea that should be consigned to the circular file, right? Well, actually, no.
Not as long as OT managers can achieve optimal ICS asset visibility and performance management.
The good news: All these objectives are achievable with the help of the right ICS network monitoring solution in place.
Optimized ICS Network Monitoring is the Key to Success
From research we learned that only 41% of organizations continually monitor their infrastructure to prioritize threats and attacks. In fact, an average of 46% of all cyber-attacks in the OT environment go undetected, suggesting the need for investment in technologies that detect cyber threats to oil and gas operations.
A best practice approach to optimizing ICS visibility involves the adoption of an advanced and mature network monitoring and situational awareness platform for industrial networks. ICS network monitoring solutions are invisible to the network and have no impact on running processes. They collect asset information such as type, firmware version, communication behavior and location by listening to traffic already traveling through the network. Because of the automated and passive nature of this method, operators can continuously track asset information and behavior. This greatly increases the efficiency of a traditionally expensive operation like maintaining an accurate asset inventory.
The asset owner also has the option to deploy additional non-intrusive active modules. Driven by the passive system, the active modules can query specific nodes of the network more extensively to gain additional information, guaranteeing the safety of the system.
These solutions feature machine learning engines that use Deep Packet Inspection to ensure they understand the contents of every data packet traveling across the network. They also provide comprehensive libraries of ICS-specific threat indicators and vulnerabilities that collect and report on:
- Extensive device and network information
- Device vulnerabilities
- Operational threats, including network connectivity issues
- Device malfunction and misconfiguration
- Dangerous process operations
- Use of insecure protocols and default credentials
- Advanced cyber-attacks and exploit attempts
With a central management platform providing access to all this information in real time, oil and gas OT managers can keep an accurate asset inventory easily and cost-effectively, spot potential threats to operational continuity early, and deal with any issues quickly and efficiently.
As a result, they really are in a position to start leveraging the business benefits of closer OT-IT integration, while minimizing the risks.
Ready to Start Drilling for Value?
Here is what increased visibility can bring to the oil and gas industry:
- Improved investment decisions based on enhanced asset visibility and status data
- Cost savings of up to 13% through preventative maintenance
- Reduced downtime through continuous ICS network monitoring and failure pattern identification
- Cyber resilience based on full knowledge of ICS asset identity and performance
- Improved collaboration between internal IT, OT and business stakeholders
- Simplified compliance with key standards, frameworks and guidelines, such as NIST Cybersecurity Framework,
IEC 62443, FISMA, American Petroleum Institute, and INGAA.
For deeper insight into all the issues identified in this post, download our white paper, or watch this webinar. Alternatively, contact us now to discuss how we can help you start extracting more value from your ICS assets.