Alberta's energy department to discuss cyberthreats on infrastructure

CALGARY - Alberta's energy department will be holding meetings in the coming weeks to discuss the threat of cyberattacks on oil-and-gas infrastructure - an issue that was flagged in a recent report by the province's auditor general.

See Full Article

The report noted that the Alberta government does not require provincially regulated oil-and-gas operators to meet minimum IT security standards for the systems that control pumps, valves and other key oil-and-gas equipment. There are standards for utilities, but electrical operators aren't required to comply with those until October of next year.

Although the threat of an attack on the oil-and-gas industry was found to be low, the auditor general report says there's been no government assessment of what the impact would be if a cyberattack were to occur.

Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd says her department accepts the auditor general's recommendations.

"Our energy industry is crucial to the economic livelihood of our province and we want to help make sure it remains as protected as possible from cyberattacks," she said in a statement.

"I have asked the department to work with regulators and other areas of government to meet and determine next steps. Those meetings will begin in the coming weeks."

The auditor general's report said if systems are not secure, "they can be misused to cause damage to critical infrastructure (e.g. oil wells, pipelines and refineries), resulting in harm to Albertans or the environment."

"We recommend that the Department of Energy and Alberta Energy Regulator work together to determine whether a further assessment of threats, risks and impacts to industrial control systems used in provincially regulated oil and gas infrastructure would benefit Alberta."

The impact of a potential cyberattack in the oilpatch could be serious, but it's unlikely to look like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster, said Nick Martyn, CEO of RiskLogik.

RiskLogik works with clients to map out and mitigate risks, whether they're potential cyberattacks or natural disasters.

Martyn said disrupting the flow of natural gas on a pipeline during the winter, for instance, "would be a huge inconvenience, but it wouldn't be catastrophic."

Ryan Wilson, chief technology officer at Toronto-based IT firm Scalar Decisions Inc., said the industry's work shouldn't stop at complying with any minimum standards the government ends up putting in place.

Companies also have a duty to shareholders to do everything possible to protect their business from threats, he said.

"It's really up to organizations themselves to take it one step further and not only focus on compliance, which is that bare minimum that you have to do, but really approach it from a risk-management perspective."

Mark Nunnikhoven, a vice-president at global IT security firm Trend Micro, said Canadian energy firms are among the best in the world when it comes to protecting themselves from cyberthreats.

However, they face a unique challenge: the infrastructure is built to stay in place for decades upon decades.

"While they're kept up to date on a somewhat regular basis, they were designed and deployed for a very different type of environment," said Nunnikhoven.

"Most of these systems are working on models that were designed conceptually 20-something years ago and the IT industry is very different now versus 20 years ago."


Latest Tech & Science News

  • Bye, Bao Bao! Later, Mei Lun and Mei Huan! Pandas leaving U.S.

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The panda population in the United States is dropping by three. Atlanta's zoo announced Thursday that its 3-year-old giant panda twins will leave the zoo Nov. 3. And the National Zoo in Washington said it will be saying bye-bye to panda cub Bao Bao in 2017. Source
  • Apple: Many 'genuine' Apple products on Amazon are fake

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple says it has been buying Apple chargers and cables labeled as genuine on and has found nearly 90 per cent of them to be counterfeit. The revelation comes in a federal lawsuit filed by Apple against a New Jersey company on Monday over what Apple says are counterfeit products that were sold on Amazon. Source
  • The science of lying: Why dishonesty has been a major part of the 2016 election

    Tech & Science CBC News
    In what will likely be remembered as the most surreal election campaign in modern American history, one word has been thrown around more than most — liar. Whether it's Donald Trump accusing Hillary Clinton of being a "world-class liar" or Clinton saying that Trump's political career is "founded on [an] outrageous lie", dishonesty has been a major talking point of the 2016 presidential contest. Source
  • Nintendo Switches things up

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    Talk about a wait and Switch. After many months of silence about their upcoming new video game console, Nintendo has taken the wraps off the Nintendo Switch, a games machine designed for use both at home and on the road. Source
  • 'Invulnerability illusion' leaves younger people exposed to web frauds

    Tech & Science CBC News
    If you're a younger person who thinks older people are more likely to get scammed online than you are, your dodgy prince awaits. A recent Better Business Bureau study found 69 per cent of online scam victims are under 45 — and millennials are more likely to get conned than baby boomers. Source
  • New collaboration features to be unveiled for Microsoft Office

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Microsoft is to hold a press event focused on the Office suite in New York on November 2, which will follow a briefing on the latest developments for Windows 10 a week earlier. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, along with Office corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer, is set to announce new features for the Office suite and its online services. Source
  • Stephen Hawking opens British artificial intelligence research hub

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Professor Stephen Hawking on Wednesday opened a new artificial intelligence research centre at Britain's Cambridge University. The Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) will delve into AI applications ranging from increasingly "smart" smartphones to robot surgeons and "Terminator" style military droids. Source
  • Amazon streaming TV devices won't be so Amazon-focused

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Amazon's own video store will no longer have the starring role on the company's Fire TV streaming devices. Software updates coming this year will give movies and TV shows from Netflix, HBO and other competitors equal prominence on the devices' home screen. Source
  • Nintendo NX: What to expect from the big reveal

    Tech & Science CTV News
    An Oct. 20 announcement from Nintendo brings with it the opportunity to confirm, deny, and add further material to the rumors that have surrounded the March 2017 console since its announcement. Its form and nature should be made known, and a relatively low price would help fans old and new plan around end-of-year spending. Source
  • Nintendo Switch: New handheld-home console hybrid revealed

    Tech & Science CTV News
    With a three-minute preview trailer, Nintendo has unveiled a first look at its new, March 2017 console: a handheld-home console hybrid, the Nintendo Switch. Giving form to two years' worth of rumors, leaks and speculation, Nintendo's next main console represents a convergence of handheld and home console technology. Source