Instead, many mining organisations are taking an “ad hoc” approach. However, this means that 48 per cent think they are unlikely to detect a sophisticated cyber attack.
With global breaches predicted to cost $6tn by 2023, more than double the figure in 2015, cybersecurity is already a key consideration for all industries. In mining, the focus on security is well justified with 55% of operators experiencing a significant cybersecurity incident in 2016.
The mining and mineral sectors are rapidly becoming digitalised, with automation taking over mine sites. Artificial intelligence and big data are also being used to increase efficiency.
However, this digitisation has left the mining industry vulnerable to cyber threats. The industry has also been slow to respond to this major threat with effective cybersecurity.
Embracing technological innovations have benefited the sector with increasing efficiency and safety. But those benefits run the risk of being lost to malicious malware if companies don’t adequately protect themselves.
Extraction, processing/refinement, stock management, and shipping are typically vulnerable to cyber threats. These four areas of the mining industry each present a different set of cyber security challenges, as well as negative outcomes (reduced productivity, stalled operations, lost revenue, etc.) if compromised.
Mine sites are also dangerous environments. An attack on safety technologies, such as wearables and gas detectors, could put workers in harm’s way of heavy machinery, fumes and explosives.
Up to now, cyber-attacks have typically targeted industrial control systems often responsible for both mining production and safety of the workforce. If a breach happens because of a well-known vulnerability that should have already been patched, this can create a difficult situation for both the board and management.
Fortunately, mining companies have realised this and increased their cybersecurity budgets by half (53 per cent) in the last 12 months. However, this funding is in many cases not enough to manage risk and the growing threat to operational technology.
In order for companies to prevent cyberattacks, they must stay ahead of threats. With technology evolving at a ferocious pace, keeping pace with these advances is not easy.
However, with the World Economic Forum classifying large-scale breaches of cybersecurity as one of the five biggest risks facing the world today, mining companies will have no choice but to better prepare themselves for this volatile environment. Having an effective digital strategy will help to truly prevent an attack, instead of simply fixing it after the fact.
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