If anybody was underestimating the importance of security in the oil and gas sector to society, the recent sight of Americans filling plastic bags at gas stations likely changed their thinking.
After falling victim to a ransomware attack in May, Colonial Pipeline was forced to shut down nearly half of the fuel supply to the East Coast for several days, resulting in panic buying and shortages.
Like other industries, though, the cyber threat in the energy sector is just one among many. Thousands of miles of pipeline crisscrossing the nation must be secured, along with sprawling installations that have extensive, often complex perimeters. A security breach, whether cyber or physical, can quickly have a major local, regional or even national impact. And it’s not always about bad actors. In February, severe winter storms in Texas had devastating effects on the state’s oil and gas infrastructure, as well as its entire electrical grid.
American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) represents oil and gas companies similarly to how the Security Industry Association (SIA) represents security companies, and the two organizations have partnered on multiple projects during the past few years. For example, last fall SIA worked with the AFPM Security Committee to develop the SIA Practitioner Insights Oil & Gas Sector Report, and AFPM members contributed to a research report on the industry that SIA commissioned from Omdia. (By the way, see the Practitioner Insights report for some interesting comments on the relationship between severe weather and security equipment that predated the Texas storms.)
SIA has also had the opportunity to provide speakers for AFPM’s annual Security Conference. This year’s conference was scheduled to be held in New Orleans but, because of challenges created by both the pandemic and Hurricane Ida, it will instead be online for the second year in a row.
The 2021 AFPM Security Conference will be held Oct. 5-6 and will feature an address reflecting on 9/11 from former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (who is also a former CIA officer), as well as sessions on the current threat landscape, crisis management and other topics.
Given that the past year-plus has included an unprecedented combination of massively disruptive biological, economic, social, cyber and weather events, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the threat landscape and crisis management discussions run a little long.
By the way, anybody who is interested in participating in the 2022 AFPM Security Conference – scheduled for May 11-12 in San Antonio, barring additional major disruptions – can submit a proposal for a conference session on the association’s website.