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Mideast Oil & Gas Facilities Could Face Cyber-Related Energy Disruptions

The Israel-Gaza conflict could expose the region's oil and gas operations to renewed cyberattacks, with global ramifications.

Georgia Lewis

November 22, 2023

3 Min Read
Qatar gas installation Ras Lafan petrochemical plant facility in Qatar middle east
Source: Kevpix via Alamy Stock Photo

Middle East oil and gas operators will need to be vigilant about the risk of cyberattacks as the Israel-Gaza conflict continues, security experts warn, or else risk energy supply disruption globally.

A recent report by S&P Global Ratings found that the Middle East's gas industry was at greater risk of physical attacks than its oil counterparts, but the threat of cyberattacks affects both industry sectors.

Cyber Disruption & Global Ripple Effects

There is the potential for the impact of cyberattacks in the region to be felt further afield, according to Paul Laudanski, director of security research at Onapsis. 

"The repercussions of these digital battles extend far beyond the confines of local geopolitics," Laudanski cautions. "In recent years, we have witnessed the strain on global supply chains and energy systems, prompting governments to fortify their reserves and establish crisis protocols for the world economy."

If Middle East oil and gas facilities experience cyberattacks as a result of the latest conflict, the types of attacks could move beyond the hacking and malware infiltrations that have been common to the region, Laudanski warns.

The S&P report said if the conflict spreads beyond Israel's borders, the Middle East gas industry will be more exposed to risk than the oil industry if pipelines are damaged or if shipping in the Strait of Hormuz — the fastest liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipping route in the region — is obstructed.

The added risk of increased cyberattacks will add further pressure to gas producers already concerned about any escalation in the war, as well as being a major concern for oil producers.

"Oil and gas companies, being critical infrastructure, can become prime targets for state-sponsored or politically motivated cyber groups aiming to disrupt operations, steal sensitive data, or cause economic damage," says Anurag Gurtu, CPO and co-founder of StrikeReady.

Last year, Europe experienced an energy crisis that escalated globally largely because of a lack of domestic infrastructure. James Hill, CEO of MCF Energy, which operates in Austria and Germany, says there is "a parallel concern around domestic production in the Middle East due to cybersecurity challenges," especially in the gas sector.

"Gas producers may face a range of security risks, from production shutdowns to inaccessibility — this could result in long-term shortages, which places like Egypt cannot afford as supply is already tight," Hill says.

Oil & Gas: A History of Targeted Attacks

There is a large precedent for attacks on the sector, especially in the wake of heightened geopolitical tensions.

In 2016 and 2017, multiple Saudi entities fell victim to the Shamoon virus, including petrochemical firm Tasnee, a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemical. The malware erased data from all affected computers within minutes. Since then, there have been multiple attempted cyberattacks on the state-owned company.

The last major cyberattacks on Middle Eastern hydrocarbons facilities took place in 2017, including the attack of Saudi Aramco's industrial control system. However, a bug in the hackers' code shut down oil and gas production before pressure, temperature, and voltage were affected.

About the Author(s)

Georgia Lewis

Contributing Writer, Freelance writer

Georgia has worked in Australia, the Middle East and the UK, writing about a wide range of industry sectors, including technology, energy and automotive. She is now a freelance tech journalist based in London.

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