Enabling Zero Trust for the Oil & Gas industry

The oil & gas industry is no stranger to both covert and overt cyber-attacks. While undergoing digital transformation and adapting to increasingly remote work culture, this critical infrastructure sector is frequently targeted for geopolitical purposes and financial gain by cybercriminals, company insiders, and nation-states. As the sector moves towards digitalization we look at how it can adopt a zero trust security model.  

Alleviate the risk of sensitive data exposure

As per Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, user credentials formed 94% of the compromised data for the oil & gas industry. Simple password-based credentials increase the risk of unauthorized access. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides a simple yet effective method to avoid losses.

Windows laptops are the most commonly used devices in any organization. Smart ID offers versatile MFA options for secure Windows logon, using virtual smartcards that can be stored on the laptop’s TPM (Trusted Platform Module), in a mobile app with Bluetooth connection, or on physical smartcards with card readers.

“Smart ID provides strong MFA that can be applied for secure log in to Windows and other devices as well as cloud and on-premise applications. Instead of remembering long, complex passwords, Smart ID enables your entire workforce to log in with a user-friendly option. Based on the organizational policies and risk profile, the applied second factor used could be based on either a PIN or user biometric, and multi-step authentication can be added,” says Lloyd Rodrigues, regional sales head for MEA at Nexus.

Enable users to work from remote locations securely

Information such as details of a potential drilling site is often discussed among teams across locations using digital conference facilities. If this information falls in the wrong hands, it could not only cost the company financially but also result in loss of competitive edge.

To avoid this, Smart ID provides a secure single sign-on (SSO) interface where only the users with the right authorization can access the system. “With SSO, users do not have to remember multiple passwords for every application or device login. Since authentication is done with user databases and LDAP, only those users that exist in internal directories can gain profile appropriate access to the conference system thus eliminating the risk of unauthorized eavesdropping,” adds Lloyd.

Protect business-critical information in emails and documents

For the O&G sector, regular email communication can include business-critical information such as plant maps, geophysical data, production trends, and much more. With business email compromise (BEC) attacks intensifying, unsecured emails are at a high risk of exposure. Not only that, but with phishing, adversaries can gain further access into the corporate systems or implant malware.

Email encryption and signing ensure that such information is rendered undecipherable to unauthorized users, thus ensuring complete data confidentiality. It also helps users identify legitimate communication with ease and avoid succumbing to spoofed or phishing emails.

“Organizations stay away from implementing email encryption and signing due to the complex setup and overheads. Smart ID platform can be easily leveraged to provision secure email communication using in-house or 3rd party digital certificates that can be hosted on virtual or physical smartcards. Combined with self-services modules, the Nexus solution is easy to implement, roll-out, use, and manage with minimal administrative oversight,” explains Lloyd.

Another piece of the puzzle for complete digitalization is digital document signing. Executives need to sign off on a range of topics – from bids for exploration rights and partner or contractor agreements to internal financial information – documents for which exchange many hands across departments. This poses a security risk as it is almost impossible to enforce data confidentiality and integrity when using physically printed documents.

Introducing digital document signing reduces lead times for multi-department, hierarchical document signing. With Smart ID for document signing, digital documents are shared only with the intended recipients (workforce, partners, consultants, customers, and citizens) who can sign using existing trusted identities such as national eIDs or enterprise IDs. “In a multi-party signature scenario, all involved parties can see and verify who has signed the digital document. It also helps maintain data integrity and provides an archival mechanism with complete audit traceability for all the signed documents,” Lloyd further adds.

What about physical access?

A physical perimeter breach, whether in an oil rig or a corporate office location, can have a disastrous impact. It would lead to perpetrators gaining direct access to critical systems and areas within the location. To avoid this, access to a user should be restricted based on the access rights of the user’s group. For example, visitors have limited access to common areas, while the IT staff needs access to all server rooms, and so on.

Smart ID for Physical ID management can help you manage all physical access in one central system, by synchronizing data resources, such as PACS (physical access control systems) and using automated processes to enforce security policies. It also allows for integrations with an HR system or Active Directory to help streamline the on- and offboarding of people. As a result, the solution reduces duplicate identities, delays in removing terminated identities, and unauthorized access.

Smart ID can be integrated with physical access control systems (PACS) to issue physical (smartcards) or virtual (in a mobile app) identities to all authorized personnel – employees, contractors, or visitors – with enhanced security elements such as a micro text, UV print, or a QR code linked to a certificate.

Fortify SCADA and IoT systems with trusted identities

To optimize efficiency and safety, O&G production requires round-the-clock monitoring of numerous equipment (pipes, valves, wellheads, tanks, etc.) and parameters (temperature, vibration, pressure, flow rates, corrosion, gas leaks, etc.). This is often done using SCADA and/or IoT systems. The importance of securing these systems goes without saying.

Nexus Smart ID for IoT assigns trusted identities to these systems and devices within the network to provide end-to-end security and help guarantee trustworthiness and high availability.

Enabling zero-trust for the Oil & Gas sector

Enabling trusted identities are at the foundation of secure digitalization and building a zero-trust environment. PKI platforms, such as Nexus Smart ID, help secure digital transformation and security enhancement. The same platform can be extended to lifecycle manage trusted identities for the workforce, workplace devices, IT networks, SCADA systems, and IoT devices. Nexus also offers flexible deployment options where the solution can be deployed on-premise, cloud, or hybrid.

For a critical industry segment like oil & gas, which has been fraught with cyber-attacks that do not show any signs of abating, Smart ID brings incomparable advantages. Through streamlined processes, it removes identity management complexities and protects from potential financial and business losses caused by data breaches, phishing, malware, and ransomware attacks.


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