America’s oil & gas supply vulnerable to Russian cyber attacks

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Published: Feb. 26, 2022 at 8:54 AM CST
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - The war in Ukraine is playing out much like wars of the past, highlighted by bombs, guns, and physical combat.

But the future is now, and NATO and Russia are waging significant conflict through cyber warfare.

Europe could lose as much as 30% of its oil imports if cut off from Russia. The United States, led by the Permian Basin, will have to fill the vacuum if that happens.

But American energy infrastructure is highly vulnerable to cyberattacks, allowing the enemy to hinder operations without firing a shot or dropping a bomb.

“You’d be amazed at the ugly things you could make happen,” said David Swift, Principal Architect at Securonix, a company that performs cyber security analytics for public and private organizations.

“This is the type of action that Putin and the Russians are willing to take,” Rep. August Pfluger (R, TX-11) said. “They’ve demonstrated the will to do that, and that’s exactly what we need to be guarding [against].”

Attacks could look similar to the Colonial Pipeline attack last year when a cyberattack U.S. officials believe emanated from Russia took out a pipeline transporting oil from Texas to the East Coast. The attack deprived the East Coast of almost half its oil and gas for a week.

The energy infrastructure is old, making things like refineries an easy target.

“So, if you go after one of those, where they’re turning oil and gas, and they’re using very high temperatures and very high pressures, those things are very sensitive,” Swift said. “It’s not hard to take one down.”

The U.S. has only about 130 refineries nationwide, and according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, no major new refineries have been built since 1977.

“They’ve mapped it all out,” Swift said. “They know exactly where the vulnerabilities are, and they’re just waiting to use those new, interesting techniques that may have a short lifespan to when it’s most effective.”

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