Protecting assets in the oil and gas sector has always been fraught with challenges.
Protecting assets in the oil and gas sector has always been fraught with challenges. The remote location of sites, harsh conditions, and knowledge of the vertical make it difficult to offer physical security.
But security concerns in the oil and gas sector are at an all-time high, with geopolitical threats and terror attacks continuing to wreak havoc. Physical security systems integrators are forced to offer cutting-edge technology to ensure safety and security in this vertical.
However, this is easier said than done. Introducing technologies like the cloud, for instance, can face resistance and even challenges in implementation.
Challenges to the cloud and where it may work
Hamish Dobson, Corporate VP for Product in Video Security and Access Control at Motorola Solutions, explained that the initial barriers that restricted oil and gas companies from moving towards cloud adoption included a lack of assured bandwidth and Internet access at geographically isolated locations. But benefits could be significant if these technical issues are taken care of.
“The benefits of implementing cloud, especially in this industry, is to provide scalability and flexibility with collecting, managing and storing the large influx of data, making decisions more quickly after data analysis and increased security against online or physical attacks,” Dobson said.
It may also be noted that the cloud may not suit every part of this vertical. Stewart Dewar, Product Manager at Senstar, points out that while centralized production facilities typically have the in-house expertise, staffing, and resources for on-site video and security management, smaller, geographically distributed operations, like those seen in upstream operations as well as point of sale downstream operations, can benefit from cloud-based or hybrid solutions.
“Cloud-based solutions enable the consolidation of security resources as well as centralized decision-making,” Dewar said. “However, the network connectivity of remote sites, along with the egress fees associated with the high volumes of data generated by video surveillance, necessitate careful analysis on an organizational level.”
The main benefit of cloud-based solutions is simplified management along with the added insight provided by having a unified, common operating platform from which to make key multi-site decisions.
While the physical security of oil and gas infrastructure is a top concern, so too is cybersecurity. In fact, cybersecurity is one of the most common topics that come up in cloud technology. As separate systems become increasingly integrated (typically to enhance capabilities and streamline operations), the separation between the physical and cyber realms is quickly dissolving.
“Malicious actors, especially on the state-sponsored level, can exploit cybersecurity weaknesses to disrupt operations, steal intellectual property, and hold organizations hostage to ransom demands,” Dewar said. “From an organizational level, we can expect a continued focus on implementing best practices and comprehensive cybersecurity audits, while on a technical level, an increased focus on reducing attack vectors, addressing vulnerabilities, and implementing network intrusion detection software will be prioritized.”
Dobson pointed out that the oil and gas industry is no stranger to cybersecurity attacks or threats, and it requires constant monitoring to ensure optimal quality control and safety. The issues that physical security devices in the industry face are leaving valuable information and data on-site for operators to potentially delete or steal, installing malicious codes, or rendering systems non-operational.
“To restrict these threats, companies can control access or create automatic system health monitoring,” Dobson said. “A common misconception is that air-gapped systems, one in which a computer or network is isolated to prevent it from establishing an external connection, are secure from cyber-attacks to the system. Air-gapped systems are only as secure as the networking policies created to regulate them; they require consistent monitoring and cannot be updated easily. Cloud solutions provide a decentralized place to store and access data and are a more secure solution.”
It is high time the oil and gas industry considered the benefits of using cloud-based solutions. Obviously, using it at every part of the vertical may not be feasible, but there are areas where it could offer significant benefits.
As security in the oil and gas industry continues to remain a major concern, embracing technological innovations becomes inevitable. Cloud and AI-enabled video analytics technologies are an obvious direction to take in this scenario.