Offshore Rigs Vulnerable? FUD? Probably not.
"Foreign Policy magazine reports that a research team from the SINTEF Group, an independent Norwegian think tank, has warned oil companies worldwide that offshore oil rigs are highly vulnerable to hacking as they shift to unmanned robot platforms where vital operations — everything from data transmission to drilling to sophisticated navigation systems that maintain the platform's position over the wellhead — are controlled via wireless links to onshore facilities. 'The worst-case scenario, of course, is that a hacker will break in and take over control of the whole platform,' says Martin Gilje Jaatun, adding that it hasn't happened yet, but computer viruses have caused personnel injuries and production losses on North Sea platforms. The list of potential cyberattackers includes ecowarriors aiming to jack up an oil firms' production costs, extortionists drawn to oil firms' deep pockets, and foreign governments engaging in a strategic contest for ever-more-scarce global oil reserves, says Jeff Vail, a former counterterrorism and intelligence analyst with the US Interior Department. 'It's underappreciated how vulnerable some of these systems are,' says Vail. 'It is possible, if you really understood them, to cause catastrophic damage by causing safety systems to fail.'"