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IoE-Powered Business Transformation Boosts Agility and Efficiency for Oil and Gas Companies

This week I’m attending CERAWeek, the premier international gathering of energy industry leaders, experts, government officials, policymakers, and innovators. While this is the 34th annual CERAWeek conference, the mood is definitely not “business as usual.” The disruption and uncertainty created by plunging oil prices and shifting market dynamics has created the urgency throughout the industry to rethink strategies and adopt connected technologies to spur operational efficiencies.

But disruption can also create opportunity. Forward-thinking oil and gas (O&G) firms see today’s turbulent market as an opportunity to gain competitive advantage by harnessing new technologies. For example, in the Eagle Ford region in North America, improved drilling technologies are now enabling oil rigs to produce 18 times more efficiently than in 2008, and 65 percent more efficiently than in 2013.

A new study by Cisco highlights the opportunity to achieve even greater efficiencies through transformed business models and digital technologies powered by the Internet of Everything (IoE)—the networked connection of people process, data, and things.

With IoE, oil and gas firms have the opportunity to make IT services a commodity in the business, creating the potential for dramatic cost reduction and improved operational efficiency. The illustration below shows several ways O&G operations can benefit from connected technologies. To achieve these benefits, however, they will need to bring together both the IT and the operational technology (OT) sides of the business. Our survey indicates that oil and gas firms have a long way to go in breaking down the barriers between IT and OT. In fact, only 41 percent of respondents “completely” or “somewhat” agreed that their firms’ IT and OT strategies are aligned.

OandG_Digital_Tranform_01

Source: Cisco, 2015

Here are some examples of how IT-OT convergence can impact the areas of data, collaboration, and cybersecurity: Read More »

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A Turning Point for Oil and Gas: Managing Through Turbulence to Digital Transformation

This is a big week for the global energy industry, as thousands of energy leaders, experts, technologists, and policymakers gather in Houston, Texas, for the 34th annual CERAWeek conference, the premier international event for the industry. As a corporate sponsor of the event, it’s also a big week for Cisco.

Just last week, Cisco released a new report focused on the need for digital transformation in the oil and gas industry. Based on a survey of oil and gas executives, analysts, and consultants in 14 countries, the paper validates CERAWeek’s “oil day” theme, “Turning Point for the Oil Industry.” For forward-thinking oil and gas companies, the price volatility and turbulence in the market could represent a turning point toward true digital transformation. Read More »

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Should women consider a career in cybersecurity? Absolutely!

With the United Nations’ International Girls in ICT day fast approaching on April 23rd, this is a great opportunity to discuss how we can get young women involved in careers in technology. Cybersecurity is an ever-present issue with companies and individuals suffering attacks daily. At Cisco, we believe that protection from threats does not rely on a single technology or solution, it incorporates both the processes and of course, the people. It is predicted that by 2017, an additional two million security professionals will be needed, but what many young people – particularly women – underestimate, is how rewarding and far-reaching a career in cybersecurity can be.

Taking, the UK as one example, cybersecurity employs 40,000 people and is worth £6 billion to the economy. Yet according to the Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report, more than one million positions for information security professionals remain unfilled around the world. What’s more, is that female cybersecurity staff only account for 11 percent of the global workforce. In Europe, the figures are even worse, coming in at only 7 percent .

Today there still remains a notion that IT is a “man’s job”. Women thinking of applying are often dissuaded as they may lack the confidence needed at the very start to pursue this career path. Yet, not only is this job market growing, but these jobs pay higher than other industries. We must do what we can to encourage young women to be fearless and pursue these fields of study, because they add new perspectives in the workplace that benefit business outcomes.

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Cybersecurity in the Post-Quantum Era

One of the great scientific challenges of our time is the construction of a practical quantum computer. Operating using the counterintuitive principles of quantum physics, such a device could rapidly explore an vast number of possible states. It could perform computational tasks that are far beyond our current capabilities, such as modeling molecules and designing new types of drugs—and breaking most of the cryptographic systems that are currently in use. Fortunately, no one has yet built a practical quantum computer, though many countries and companies are striving do just that. It has been claimed that the U.S. National Security Agency has a secret US$80M project with that aim, for example. Quantum computing is still an unproven technology, and it may not be practical for decades, but since it poses an existential threat to cryptography, we need to start preparing now for the possibility that one day the news will announce a breakthrough in quantum computing, and we will be living in a post-quantum world.

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Combating Cyber-Attacks Through Cyber Intelligence & Security: Part One

Hello and welcome to Part One of my new blog series discussing cyber intelligence and security around the critical infrastructure sectors in the U.S. Cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent and threatening to utilities, refineries, military defense systems, water treatment plants and other sectors of our critical infrastructure. Part One of this series details the dangers of cyber-attacks by state and non-state actors and how cyber intelligence can help organizations combat future cyber-attacks. Part Two will detail the role of data in cyber security and ways cyber intelligence can be gathered to further prevent attacks.

The New State of Cyber-Attacks

As technology advances so will the amount of cyber-attacks. Many companies play a vital role in their nation’s critical infrastructure and these companies are adopting digital systems to replace older, analog controls. This digitization of technology is helping operators obtain remote visibility and control over operations, including processes in refineries, the generation and transmission of power in the electrical grid, and the temperatures in nuclear cooling towers. In doing so, industrial facilities have become more efficient and productive.

However, the same digital hyper-connectivity that facility managers use to collect data and control machines and processes, also can serve as entry points for cyber attackers to get into system networks and steal or alter classified information, disrupt processes and cause damage to equipment. Many early control system breaches were random or accidental infections, but we’ve now entered a stage where kinetic attacks are becoming more prevalent, with industrial control systems becoming the object of targeted attacks.

Threats to a company’s information systems and assets could come from anywhere. State and non-state actors from around the globe are almost certainly targeting and possibly even penetrating the networks of energy providers and other critical infrastructures in the U.S. Effectively cyber criminals have loose alignment (affiliation) with state actors and now these criminals are beginning to use different methodologies, creating a huge challenge. Traditionally, we see malicious actions like zero-day attacks, Denial of Service attacks, (DoS) i.e. vulnerability attacks, bandwidth or connection flooding, stopping or delaying workflows and SQL Injections that help hackers exploit or steal data from organizations.

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