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."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • University of Toronto researchers discover 507-million-year old sea creature

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Insects and other crawlies might not be the most pleasant creatures to some, but they are the most abundant organisms on Earth. Now a 507-million-year-old fossil has been discovered by Canadian researchers that is shedding light on their evolution. Source
  • Can't hack it in high altitudes? It's all about genetics

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Try to walk a mile in a Tibetan person's shoes and you will fail miserably. That's because they have evolved to live at high altitudes better than anyone else on the planet. Just in time for the climbing season to open on Mount Everest, a new study from the University of Texas, Houston, tells us about the genes behind this incredible ability. Source
  • Canadian Space Agency getting $80.9 million for two projects

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LONGUEUIL, Que. -- The federal government is providing $80.9 million over five years to the Canadian Space Agency to help it develop new technologies. The funding, which was already announced in this year's federal budget, will support two projects. Source
  • NASA successfully pilots spacecraft between Saturn and its rings

    Tech & Science CBC News
    NASA announced Thursday morning its Cassini spacecraft was successful in its historic first dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings. The unmanned Cassini is back in radio contact with Earth after entering the gap Wednesday in the first mission of its kind. Source
  • NASA spacecraft completes first-ever dive between Saturn and its rings

    Tech & Science CTV News
    After 13 years in orbit around Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has completed the first stage of its most daring mission yet – diving into the narrow gap between the planet and its rings. In an update posted online, NASA confirmed that its Deep Space Network Gladstone Complex (DSN) in California’s Mojave Desert made contact with Cassini at 2:56 a.m. Source
  • Science minister considers forcing universities to attract more female research chairs

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Canada's science minister says universities aren't doing the heavy lifting to appoint more female research chairs, so she wants to force their hands. On her way to give a speech Wednesday to Canada's university presidents in Montreal, Kirsty Duncan was handed the latest statistics on the number of men and women among applicants for new Canada Research Chair positions. Source
  • Amazon is adding a camera to its newest Echo smart speaker

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The first versions of its voice activated Echo speakers still haven't been released in Canada, but technology giant Amazon is already unveiling a new model which includes a camera that can take pictures of its surroundings on command. Source
  • TED: Smart machines to recover lost memories, mind your children

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Intelligent machines of the future will help restore memory, mind your children, fetch your coffee and even care for aging parents. It will all be part of a brave new world of the not-so-distant future, in which innovative smart machines, rather than being the undoing of people -- as some technophobes have long feared -- actually enhance humans. Source
  • Startup cooking up silkworm noodles for Chinese meals

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Entrepreneur Matilda Ho is out to get silkworm noodles on the menu in China. The managing director of Shanghai-based startup incubator Bits and Bites was at the TED conference in Vancouver on Wednesday as part of a mission to promote sustainably-sourced food and healthful diets in a country of more than a billion people. Source
  • Ohio zoo euthanizes 29-year-old polar bear that had cancer

    Tech & Science CTV News
    In this Nov. 19, 2012, file photo, polar bear Aurora, right, a female, gets acquainted with Nanuq, a male, during their first 24 hours together at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, Ohio. (Tom Dodge/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File) Source