Across all industries today, the next generation of intelligent technology solutions are evolving, and industry is increasingly dependent on the internet for growth. As Information Technologies and Operational Technologies (IT/OT) converge, the reach of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) is moving further into physical environments where the demand is most needed (which can also be broadly defined as the “edge”).

Over the next few years, it is estimated that Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks—also called 4G—will cover an estimated 90 percent of the population, with 5G networks increasingly important to next generation technologies such as autonomous cars.1

As a result, in a recent report ’Reinventing the Internet To Secure the Digital Economy’ Accenture estimates that by 2023, average targeted business growth that is dependent on the internet will double.

The energy industry today is increasingly intelligent

In the energy sector, business growth is being supported by ever more sophisticated data analysis gathered from internet enabled machines. Data is being converted into actionable knowledge that can increase oil and gas asset utilization, reduce energy and costs. Sensors which monitor plant and field processes, products and workers; drones which inspect pipelines; robots which run manufacturing processes—all are internet enabled and where oil companies are exploiting the “edge” as a critical part of their operational infrastructure.

As a result, companies proficient in IoT technologies are moving closer to the oil industry. A recent example is the expansion of Californian start-up FLICQ to Aberdeen earlier this year.2

  • 94% of oil companies rank business growth through internet-enabled initiatives in their top three strategic priorities.

  • 74% of oil companies became largely dependent on the internet over the past 10 years.

Protecting the internet for business advantage

As the pace of adoption of new and emerging technologies quickens and business dependency on the internet grows, adequate safeguards against cybercriminals are vital. Accenture’s survey shows that 84 percent of oil companies believe that without a dramatic improvement to the security of the internet, the advancement of the internet economy will be severely hindered.

Being able to grow securely in an internet economy is now a fundamental aim of many oil companies, with over two thirds seeing the growth of innovation (through information exchanges) as a primary benefit.3

However, many CEOs need to build more awareness of the cyber risk problem as it relates to long term growth. In the refining sector, for example, a significant number of refineries have stated that they were experiencing more or significantly more cyber-attacks in 2018 than the previous year while an almost equal number did not actually know whether cyber threats on their refineries were increasing or not.4

Mostly oil companies are handling an escalating number of cyber threats successfully, but their individual efforts will not solve the problem of wider internet fragility. External threats are multiplying and are compounded by the fast-growing threat of ransomware attacks.5

According to one estimate1, these kinds of attacks (in all industries) saw a 350 percent increase in 2018. In the energy sector they are being complicated by the relatively high level of in-direct attacks (from partnerships and joint ventures breaches for example). Put together, Accenture has estimated that such cyber risks, if not addressed, will cost the energy industry over $200 billion in value over the next five years (with the majority of that risk centred in North America and China - see figure 1)

Figure 1.

This images shows how in the energy industry, USA faces the highest risk, with US$80 billion hanging in the balance.

Creating a Digitally Secure Business

Accenture believes that oil industry CEOs need a two-fold view of the issue of Internet security, which relates to the way they already address risks in their sector:

Above Ground

  • Governance—joining forces with other companies and create collaborative relationships with peers, government representatives, regulators and industry association leads. This is area where the oil industry, with its long history of governmental and national incumbent relationships could excel.

  • Business Architecture—embedding the idea of a trustworthy digital economy in the vision for their company’s business architecture; ensuring security is prioritized within company boundaries and its ecosystem.

Below Ground

  • Embracing and developing technologies that can advance their businesses and enhance digital safety investments that improve Internet infrastructure and support further IT/OT convergence. This should include updates to the Internet’s basic protocols and networks as well as training for partners and employees against ransomware threats.

In this way, oil company CEOs can drive a trust turnaround for the Internet and secure not only the growth of their company but also the future of the digital economy.


2 “FLICQ selects Aberdeen business park”, 11th January 2019, Scottish Business Insider, © 2019 Insider Publications Ltd, via Factiva ((FLICQ offers connecting sensor technology and moves algorithms and analytics closer to where the data is collected or the "edge" of the IIoT network)
57% of oil industry executives saw the future growth of their company stifled because they are unable to grow securely in the internet economy and 67% identified flourishing innovation through information exchanges as the primary benefit
4 The Intelligent Refinery – Accenture’s 2018 Digital Refining Survey
Defined by “successful hacks and data breaches stem from phishing scams, e-mails crafted to encourage recipients to click a link, open a document or forward information to someone they shouldn't”
2019 'Cybersecurity Almanac: 100 Facts, Figures, Predictions and Statistics', 2 April 2019, Business Mirror, Copyright © 2019. Business Mirror, via Factiva

Jim Guinn

Managing Director – Accenture Security, Strategy & Consulting Lead

Julie Adams

Research Senior Principal

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