With the onset of the Internet of Things, almost anything can now be connected to the internet. It’s not just phones anymore; it’s cars, public transit systems, and even industrial hardware.
This trend has spread to the energy sector, where both manufacturing equipment and energy production equipment can be connected in order to better predict service needs and production rates.
Unfortunately, where there is an internet connection, there is the possibility of a hack.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz brought this problem to the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas this week, focusing on the possible cyber threat to the country’s natural gas industry.
You see, there are many aspects of natural gas production and transportation that could be at risk. Moniz states that the utility sector is often the “poster child” for U.S. cyber attacks, and natural gas is no exception.
From the vehicles that transport gas, to the traffic management systems those vehicles travel through, to smart meters on compressor stations that send gas through pipelines, the Internet of Things has left the commodity vulnerable to would-be hackers.
Moniz, however, is not calling for a reduction in connections. Rather, he insists that the “training of professionals [is]… not keeping up with demand” and there should be more rigorous training for preventative and repair measures.
Understand, protection of the U.S. natural gas infrastructure is not just important to the natural gas industry, but all industries that rely on it as well.
As the country adheres to the Clean Power Plan, more states will upgrade to natural gas power from coal power plants. And many interstate pipelines will be at risk of hacking.
In 2013, the Department of Homeland security reported one of the first hacking attempts made on compression stations in the Midwest and Plains areas. More recently, cybersecurity firms have reported similar threats to connected vehicles and gas stations.
According to Moniz, the U.S. Department of Energy is partnering with the industry to collaborate on protection and preventative measures.
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Until next time,
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