Energy sector prone to cyber threats – NSA



 The National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, has called on stakeholders in the power, oil and gas sector to key into the fight against cyber threats.

Monguno made the call at the sensitisation workshop for the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy (NCPS) 2021 for Power Oil and Gas Sector on Tuesday in Abuja.

He was represented at the multi-stakeholders engagement organised by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) by the Deputy Director of Communication, Col. Bala Fakandu.

Monguno said the sector was more prone to cyber attacks, saying the country was currently witnessing a digital transformation to enhance its development.

He said that the digital transformation was a vital priority for the power, oil and gas sector because of the enormous benefits.

The benefits, according to him, includes ease of managing operations such as industrial control systems, effective management of occupational health and safety hazards, improved performance of critical infrastructure, optimization and improved productivity as well as efficient service delivery to citizens.

He said that digital transformation in the sector was no longer about innovation and sophistication but should be considered as a culture because of the exponential rates of accepting new technologies and its dynamism.

According to him, the fast rate of adoption of technology by the power, oil and gas sector is commendable, encouraging and laudable as the implementation of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) by the Sector will come with its huge benefits.

“In spite of these gains, like several other countries across the globe, the growth and development of our cyberspace is accompanied by significant and inherent challenges.

“Similarly, the paradigm shift witnessed in the digital transformation of the power, oil and gas sector makes it continuously a lucrative target for cybercriminals particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“This could be attributed to possible huge financial gains, access to valuable data which serves as a treasure hove of sensitive data because its crucial importance to the economy,” he said.

According to him, to corroborate this challenge, the World Economic Forum recently ran a survey that alluded that there are 80 per cent chances that Ransomware is a dangerous threat that is threatening economic stability, public safety and national security.

“Furthermore, the recent Ransomware Cyber-attack on Colonial fuel Pipeline in U.S. in May 2021, which supplies 45 per cent of fuel requirement for the U.S. East Coast is a wakeup call.

“It was noted that nearly five million dollars in ransom was plaid to the cyber-criminal gang Dark Side for the cyber-attacks.

“Additionally, the cyberattack on Ukraine’s power grid in December 2015 was an eye opener, resulting in power outages for roughly 230,000 consumers in Ukraine.

“These incidents have demonstrated the critical need for the sectors to be proactive in addressing the global cyber challenges while embracing the current digital transformation for efficient management, better service delivery and returns on investment,” he said.

The NSA said that there was need to consolidate and double efforts for a more resilient infrastructure, enhanced capacity against cyber-attacks and sustainable service delivery in the sector.

He said that the NCPS 2021 was in a bid to ensure that the nation effectively harness the benefits of the digital revolution while effectively combating the heightening risks of cyber threats.

According to him, the sensitisation campaign is also in recognition of the sector’s vital role in enhancing cybersecurity in Nigeria.

“This Workshop is expected to be an eye-opening encounter and a platform to further enrich that which is already known by the sharing of experiences and proposing solutions for a better cyber space as it concerns the sector,” he said.

The Director of Communication, ONSA, Brig.-Gen. Samad Akesode, said the workshop was organised to discuss the initiatives and strategic actions as contained in the implementation plan and bring to the fire the roles of relevant stakeholders.

Akesode, who was represented by Mr Friday Ikuero, Head, Incident Handling Department, Nigeria Computer Emergency Response Team, ONSA, said it was also to ensure the security of the country’s presence in cyberspace and enhancing its readiness for global economic competitiveness.

He said that the cyberspace had become a fundamental aspect of human lives globally, adding that economies were now constantly striving to exploit the benefits offered by the digital age.

According to him, the increased dependence on cyberspace comes with risks that have significant national security implications which also affects power, oil and gas sector as part he ecosystem that drives digital transformation towards national development.

In his goodwill message, the Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Prof. James Momoh, commended ONSA for bringing the relevant stakeholders together to discuss ways to curb the menace of cyber attacks on critical national infrastructure.

Momoh, who was represented by Mr Abdullahi Adamu, Deputy General Manager and Head of ICT, NERC said that the power sector was evolving very fast and transformed in the last five years.

He said the power sector had before now been mostly manual and mechanical, adding that the sector had began to employ new technologies into a lot of its operations.

According to him, the technology comes with the challenges in the cyberspace, adding that the power sector was not unaware.

“We are aware that the technology is prone to cyber attacks and we commended ONSA for this kind of engagement.

“It is a good a engagement and I will like to assure NSA that NERC would be more involved in the implementation of the NCPS 2021,” he said. (NAN)