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As a sign of things to come, hackers have now found a way to disrupt vital oil terminals at ports in Europe. These terminals suffered a malware incursion which locked down some systems. The ports affected were in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. This included Hamburg, Ghent, Antwerp-Zeebrugge, and Rotterdam.
The result was a disruption of operations at oil terminals that prevented tankers from being able to deliver energy supplies. This occurred at a time when oil prices were rising sharply.
A German company known as Oiltanking confirmed that it had been "the victim of a cyber incident affecting (its) computer systems,” said the company in a statement. "All parties are continuing to work towards a return to normal operations at all our terminals as soon as possible.”
How Ransomware Works
After cybercriminals gained access to systems, they sent a communication to the victims telling them that they could regain access if they paid a ransom. This type of attack, known as ransomware, has become increasingly common over the past year. According to the 2021 Annual Data Breach Report by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), 1,862 data compromises were found in 2021, up from 1,108 the previous year. Ransomware-related data breaches have doubled in each of the past two years. Researchers predict that at the current rate, ransomware attacks will surpass phishing as the number one root cause of data compromises in 2022 (phishing is where an email scammer tries to tempt a user to click on a malicious link or attachment or reveal confidential information).
This isn’t the first time that ransomware has struck the oil & gas field. In 2021, Colonial Pipeline in the USA was locked out of its systems by ransomware. The likelihood that such attacks will continue to strike the sector this year. And that the power industry, too, could find itself in the ransomware crosshairs.
The ITRC study noted that compromises have increased in just about every sector with manufacturing and utilities experiencing the largest percentage increase in 2021, up 217% compared to 2020.
“The number of breaches in 2021 was alarming,” said Velasquez. “Many of the cyberattacks committed were highly sophisticated and complex, requiring aggressive defenses to prevent them. If those defenses failed, too often we saw an inadequate level of transparency for consumers to protect themselves from identity fraud. There is no reason to believe the level of data compromises will suddenly decline in 2022. As organizations of all sizes struggle to defend the data they hold, it is essential that everyone practice good cyber-hygiene to protect themselves and their loved ones from these crimes.”