Russian Hackers Mount Attacks on Western Oil & Gas Industry

The newest threat to the oil & gas industry could be hiding on one of your favorite web pages! According to The New York Times, Russian hackers are using the web to gain access to the computer networks of hundreds of Western oil and gas companies to conduct industrial espionage. Attacks, which can come in the form of mass emails containing malicious links, are also hidden on web pages an employee views often. It's called a "watering hole attack." What happens is hackers infect a site with malicious software, and employees unknowingly download the malware when visiting the site, allowing hackers to gain access to the company's computer network.

According to Symantec, a cyber security firm based in the U.S., the attackers known as "Dragonfly" or "Energetic Bear" have been around since 2011, and exhibit the hallmarks of a state-sponsored operation. In one of their attacks, the hackers hit a number of industrial control system (ICS) equipment providers, infecting their software with a remote access-type Trojan. This gave the hackers the means to mount sabotage operations against infected ICS computers, and even though no such action was taken, it represents a very real threat. For now, the primary goal of the hackers appears to be industrial espionage.

Russia's Oil & Gas Industry

Russia's industrial espionage campaign on the West is providing the country with valuable intelligence to further exploit their resources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Russia is the second-largest producer of dry natural gas and third-largest liquid fuels producer in the world. Russia's economy is also highly dependent on its hydrocarbons, and oil and gas revenues, which account for more than 50% of the federal budget revenues.

Companies with operations in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas could make excellent targets for Russian hackers. Over the past several years, technological advancements have abounded since development began in these plays began. It makes sense that the Russians would want to target these companies to gain access to privileged information.

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