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Edge Security Challenges in the Oil and Gas Industry

Edge Security Challenges in the Oil and Gas Industry

Edge Computing enables OT-level digital transformation for the Oil and Gas industry and expands the attack surface
September 06, 2023

Edge computing has emerged as a transformative technology in various industries, including the oil and gas sector. This innovative approach brings computational power and data storage closer to the source of data generation, enabling real-time processing and analysis. Edge computing revolutionizes operations by providing better insights, reducing costs, enhancing safety, and improving efficiency. One example is edge computing in offshore drilling platforms, enabling smart decision-making and optimizing production. Another example is deploying edge computing devices in remote oil and gas facilities to monitor and control critical processes, ensuring continuous operations and minimizing downtime. With the advancement of edge computing, companies are using real-time analytics and decentralized data processing to drive digital transformation and achieve operational excellence. Edge devices connected to the internet can become potential targets for unauthorized access, data breaches, and other cyber threats. Protecting these devices and ensuring the security of edge networks becomes crucial in safeguarding sensitive data and critical operations in the oil and gas sector.

Edge computing and digitalization have revolutionized the oil and gas industry, bringing significant economic, operational, and safety impacts. According to a report by Accenture, digitalization has the potential to create value up to $1.6 trillion for the industry by 2025. Edge computing enables real-time monitoring and analytics, improving operational efficiency and reducing downtime. Furthermore, a study by Deloitte found that digitalization can enhance worker safety by up to 12%. With the integration of advanced technologies like IoT and AI, edge computing has transformed the industry, enabling cost savings, increased productivity, and improved safety measures.

Edge computing and operational technology (OT) are crucial in the oil and gas industry, driving economic growth, operational efficiency, and safety measures. However, a report by the American Petroleum Institute titled "The State of Operational Technology Cybersecurity in the Oil and Natural Gas Industry" highlights the potential risks and impacts associated with these technologies. The report finds that edge computing and OT systems are susceptible to cyber threats, which could lead to significant economic losses. In fact, the average cost of a cyber-attack against the energy sector is estimated to be around $6.4 million. Additionally, operational disruption caused by cyber incidents can result in production losses and equipment damage, further impacting the industry's finances. Moreover, safety measures can be compromised in the event of a cyber-attack, posing risks to human lives and the environment. Therefore, while edge computing and digitalization bring immense benefits to the oil and gas industry, it is essential to prioritize robust cybersecurity measures to protect against potential threats.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, operational technology (OT) systems used in the oil and gas industry are susceptible to various security flaws. These flaws particularly affect systems that monitor and control physical equipment in the sector. The GAO report highlights vulnerabilities in systems such as remote terminal units, programmable logic controllers, and flow computers, which are commonly used in the industry. These flaws can lead to unauthorized access and compromise the security and integrity of critical systems, potentially resulting in disruptions to production, equipment damage, and substantial economic losses.

Highly distributed infrastructure

The oil and gas industry is embracing edge computing to enhance efficiency and optimization across various stages of its operations. In upstream applications, edge computing is used to collect and process real-time data from sensors installed on drilling rigs and production wells. This enables operators to analyze data locally and make immediate decisions to improve drilling accuracy, maximize production, and reduce downtime. For instance, companies like ExxonMobil have implemented edge computing solutions to optimize well production and lower operational costs. However, this increased connectivity also increases cybersecurity risks, as the collected data can be compromised or manipulated if not properly secured.

In midstream applications, edge computing enables real-time monitoring and control of pipeline operations, reducing the potential for leaks, spills, and downtime. By implementing edge devices and edge-based analytics, oil and gas companies can detect anomalies and notify operators promptly, reducing the impact on the environment and minimizing financial loss. One example is the use of edge computing in pipeline integrity monitoring, where companies like Chevron have leveraged edge computing to improve leak detection and response times. However, these edge devices become potential entry points for cyberattacks if not adequately defended, which requires the industry to continuously develop robust security measures.

In downstream applications, edge computing plays a crucial role in refining operations. By deploying edge devices and analytics at the plant level, refineries can optimize processing and energy consumption, thereby reducing operational costs and improving overall efficiency. Edge computing facilitates real-time process monitoring, analysis, and control, enabling refineries to quickly respond to changing market conditions. For instance, BP has implemented edge computing in its refineries to improve operational visibility and decision-making. However, the reliance on interconnected edge systems

To address the distinctive security challenges within the oil and gas sector, AI EdgeLabs presents a groundbreaking edge-first security solution that focuses on the detection of malware, viruses, and ransomware while also emphasizing network detection and response. This solution is purpose-built to handle the intricacies of securing distributed edge infrastructure and devices prevalent in this industry.

AI EdgeLabs adopts a software-centric approach by integrating a specialized sensor into Linux-based edge devices. These devices are encapsulated within a secure Docker container and strategically deployed within on-premise networks at the edge. This deployment is facilitated through edge orchestration platforms, including Kubernetes.

By harnessing edge orchestration platforms, such as Kubernetes, AI EdgeLabs' solution streamlines the deployment process while maintaining a robust security posture. The inclusion of a sensor within a secure Docker container enables real-time monitoring and detection of potential threats like malware, viruses, and ransomware, at the edge of the network.

AI EdgeLabs eliminates the necessity for continuous data transfer to and from a central server or cloud-based security platform for analysis. This streamlined approach not only expedites threat identification but also optimizes bandwidth usage and reduces operational expenses associated with data transmission.

A notable advantage of AI EdgeLabs' edge-native security solution is its remarkable adaptability to dynamic network conditions. This adaptability is particularly pertinent for edge devices in remote and challenging environments with limited connectivity. These devices can maintain their secure operations even during instances of intermittent disruptions in the connection to the central network, leveraging AI & ML to ensure security through inherent resilience, ensuring uninterrupted safeguarding of critical devices and systems, irrespective of the prevailing network circumstances.

Operational and legacy systems

Due to the vast array of technologies utilized within the oil and gas industry, establishing standardized security protocols that can be universally applied is lacking. Each technology and system used in this sector possesses distinct security requirements and vulnerabilities. Consequently, implementing a single cloud-based security solution becomes challenging due to the need for tailored approaches for endpoint devices and systems.

There have been multiple successful cyberattacks against offshore oil and gas infrastructure that could have severe effects on the safety, environment, and the economy. In 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard made a statement regarding a cybersecurity incident where malware was unintentionally introduced onto a mobile offshore drilling unit. The malware affected the dynamic positioning system, which resulted in the need to maneuver to avoid an accident.  

Operational Technology (OT) systems traditionally operate in isolation from Information Technology (IT) systems in the oil and gas industry. There needs to be built-in security for such systems, which are not designed to stay updated with the evolving cyber risks and secure their digital landscape. The companies need to focus on adopting edge security solutions that can directly operate on edge devices to make these OT systems more secure.

To address the problems with unknown cyber threats on oil and gas offshore facilities, AI EdgeLabs leverages machine learning techniques for threat detection. The solution can learn patterns and characteristics of malicious behavior by training models on large datasets of historical attack data. This enables AI EdgeLabs to identify new and evolving threats that exhibit similar patterns, even if they have not been encountered before. 

AI EdgeLabs showcases rapid detection of potential threats with detection time ranging from 0.1 to 10 seconds. The system can analyze incoming data and network traffic to identify malicious activities. This real-time threat detection capability enables immediate response and mitigation, minimizing the potential impact of security incidents.

Data privacy and compliance

In the oil and gas sector, where the integration of edge computers is pivotal, the adherence to established cybersecurity frameworks becomes paramount. The industry finds itself navigating the complexities of safeguarding critical infrastructure, a task guided by regulations such as the NIST-800-53 controls for edge devices and the IEC-62443 standard. These regulations ensure that edge computers, which are essential components of the sector's operations, are fortified against multifaceted threat actors.

For instance, NIST-800-53 controls play a crucial role in prescribing specific security measures for edge computers used in oil and gas operations. These controls may encompass access management, encryption protocols, and intrusion detection systems tailored to edge devices. Such measures are designed to thwart a variety of attacks, from data breaches to unauthorized access.

In parallel, the IEC-62443 standard provides a comprehensive framework for the security of industrial automation and control systems, which include edge computers. This standard delineates the essential steps needed to establish secure communication, robust authentication mechanisms, and stringent access controls for these devices. By adhering to IEC-62443, the oil and gas sector can safeguard critical processes and prevent potential disruptions.

Furthermore, the integration of the Mitre ATT&CK framework empowers the sector to anticipate and counteract specific threat vectors. Tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) outlined within Mitre ATT&CK become actionable insights that guide the formulation of targeted security strategies. For example, the framework might reveal that attackers often employ techniques like spear-phishing or privilege escalation to infiltrate edge computers in the oil and gas industry. Armed with this knowledge, organizations can implement tailored defenses against these tactics.

Aligned with the cybersecurity posture shaped by these frameworks, the Lockheed Martin Kill Chain framework provides an effective means to analyze and respond to potential breaches. The Kill Chain breaks down the stages of an attack into distinct phases, such as reconnaissance, delivery, exploitation, and exfiltration. By identifying which phase an attacker is operating within, defenders can tailor their countermeasures to interrupt the breach at its earliest stages.

This orchestrated approach to cybersecurity is further reinforced by Executive Order 14028, which underscores the gravity of the situation. This executive order emphasizes the need to secure critical infrastructure and mitigate risks emanating from various threat actors, including nation-state adversaries and cybercriminal groups. The directive encompasses strengthening cybersecurity practices, enhancing information sharing between the private sector and government, and fostering collaboration to fortify the resilience of essential industries like oil and gas.

AI EdgeLabs' cybersecurity platform equips oil and gas companies to adhere to regulatory requirements and recognize the importance of data privacy policies within their edge environments – keeping organizational data secure and protected within the network infrastructure.  AI EdgeLabs reduces the risks associated with data transitioning outside of the network. This helps enhance compliance efforts, as data remains under the organization's control and within the defined security boundaries. By maintaining control over their data, oil and gas companies can ensure it is handled following regulatory requirements, minimizing the potential for data breaches and unauthorized access.

Within the oil and gas sector, where the integration of edge computers is pivotal, AI EdgeLabs offers tailored solutions that align with specific regulations, notably the NIST-800-53 controls for edge devices and the IEC-62443 standard. These regulations serve as cornerstones for safeguarding critical infrastructure by stipulating stringent security measures.

AI EdgeLabs' focused Intrusion Detection System (IDS), Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), and Network Detection and Response (NDR) functionalities play a pivotal role in adhering to these regulations. For instance, NIST-800-53 mandates robust monitoring and detection mechanisms to safeguard sensitive data. AI EdgeLabs' IDS/IPS and NDR functions address this requirement by continuously monitoring network traffic for anomalies, thereby promptly identifying potential threats such as ddos, flood attacks, and brute force attempts. By promptly detecting and responding to such threats, organizations are well-equipped to mitigate risks that could lead to data breaches or unauthorized access.

Continuous threat monitoring is a critical aspect of both NIST-800-53 and IEC-62443. AI EdgeLabs' solution excels in this regard by actively inspecting network traffic for emerging threats within the edge environment. This proactive approach aligns with the regulations' emphasis on maintaining constant vigilance to protect valuable data.

Moreover, AI EdgeLabs' ability to operate entirely within the organization's network infrastructure reinforces compliance with data privacy policies. The solution eliminates the need for data to transition outside the network, significantly reducing associated risks. This intrinsic data control translates to enhanced compliance efforts. Data remains within the organization's defined security boundaries, ensuring adherence to both NIST-800-53 and IEC-62443.

By aligning with these regulations and focusing on security at the edge, AI EdgeLabs reinforces the oil and gas companies' ability to safeguard organizational data within the edge environment. This heightened visibility of threats that can impact control over data enhances compliance endeavors, reducing the likelihood of data breaches and unauthorized access. The solution's capacity to identify and neutralize network threats enables oil and gas companies to uphold their regulatory obligations effectively. 


As the oil and gas industry faces the complexities of securing operational and legacy systems widely distributed across remote edge locations, edge-native security systems become essential in addressing the basic security functionalities of endpoint devices. AI EdgeLabs' security solution strengthens the industry’s security posture and safeguards critical infrastructure, enabling continued growth and operational integrity.


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