Mining companies facing heightened cyber security risk

Published July 25th, 2016 - 12:00 GMT
There has been an increase in cyber attacks, mainly motivated by corporate espionage. (File photo)
There has been an increase in cyber attacks, mainly motivated by corporate espionage. (File photo)

With Saudi’s mining sector to represent 10% of its non-oil revenue by 2030, and other countries like Oman and the UAE investing into latest technologies, the outlook for integrated IT platforms and cloud operations in the mining sector looks promising in the region.However, companies in the sector will have to be ready for the security challenges, these technological advances bring in.

According to a recent report by Trend Micro, the global leader in security software solutions, the mining industry is being targeted by cyber criminals. The security firm has been called in to investigate 17 incidents involving cyber-attacks on 22 entities operating in the sector since 2010.

The most recent attack was recorded in April 2016, when hackers leaked 14.8 GB of data from the Canadian mining corporation Goldcorp.

Though the report does not have major cases from the Middle East and Africa, companies in the region are not immune to these attacks. The UAE-based firm Minerals and Marine Assets Corporation (MAC) and Canadian company Nautilus were the victims of a targeted cyber scam, wherein Nautilus paid a $10-million deposit intended for MAC into an unknown bank account.

According to the report, the main reason for the attacks is corporate espionage among other motives like information theft and hacktivism. The mining industry is both a geopolitical and an economic target, as the data stolen through commercial espionage can have devastating effects on the targeted firm’s operations, finances, and market standing, as well as detrimental consequences on the host country’s economy.

The prime target for data theft in the mining sector is information about a mine’s pricing, which can help a competitor hijack a sales deal by outbidding the competition or a buyer negotiate a better purchase price or change the terms of a takeover bid. Customer information is another prime target for data theft, competitors can use the stolen information to hijack future sales. The study says cybercriminals also target Intellectual property (IP) data, such as production methods, mineral processing methods, chemical formulae and custom software.

According to Trend Micro, the competitive global market for commodities and manufactured goods, the reliance on natural resources for economic development and fluctuating geopolitical climates have contributed to making mining industry a target of cyber espionage campaigns, and in extreme cases disruptive and destructive cyber-attacks.

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