Global power industry faces threats from ‘daily’ cyberattacks, warns GE

The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team has accused the Russian government of a ‘multi-stage intrusion campaign’ targeting the US energy grid. (Shutterstock)
Updated 13 June 2018
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Global power industry faces threats from ‘daily’ cyberattacks, warns GE

  • GE’s Justin Eggart: “There are some bad actors out there. We talk to customers every day and it is the fastest growing threat.”
  • Justin Eggart sees lots of opportunities in the Kingdom as it works to diversify the economy away from oil dependence under the Vision 2030 strategy.

ATLANTA: Daily cyberattacks on power plants around the world are one of the biggest issues the global energy industry faces, according to senior executives of General Electric, the giant US engineering conglomerate.
“There have been attempted attacks at virtually every customer site in the world,” said Justin Eggart general manager of GE’s thermal power division based in Atlanta, Georgia.
“There are some bad actors out there. We talk to customers every day and it is the fastest growing threat. We’ve never had a successful cyberattack on our operations here (in Atlanta), but some of our customers around the world have been impacted,” he said.
Christopher Held, engineering manager at the GE monitoring and diagnostics (M&D) center in the city, added: “We see people trying to hack in every day but they have never succeeded. It is something we take very seriously and have a big team working on it.” He added that attacks came from several countries, including Russia and China.
The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team in March accused the Russian government of a “multi-stage intrusion campaign” targeting the US energy grid with a campaign of cyberattacks stretching back at least two years.
GE is one of Saudi Arabia’s longest-standing industrial partners; there is a unit of the company’s M&D operation in Damman, opening in partnership with Saudi Electricity Company. GE also works with Saudi Aramco in industrial power generation.
Eggart said that he saw lots of opportunities in the Kingdom as it worked to diversify the economy away from oil dependence under the Vision 2030 strategy. “As the economy develops that will change the nature of power production and consumption, and we can help with that,” he said.
The Atlanta operation monitors the global power generation network GE runs around the world, as well as selling monitoring services to other manufacturers of power generation equipment, overseeing 946 plants in 76 countries.
Held said that the center processed one million pieces of information per second, and that there were about 60,000 alerts per year. Some 180 “major events” involving a total stoppage of power and costly damage to generating equipment were prevented last year, he said
M&D is one of GE’s fastest growing business streams, with 30 to 40 percent increases witnessed since 2016, similar growth rates projected in the coming years Eggart said that the power industry was facing “significant challenges” in addition to cyber threats, including the transition to renewable technology, lack of infrastructure in some parts of the world, and the need for new investment in aging plants and distribution grids.
He also criticized tariffs on imported steel and aluminum introduced by the Trump administration, noting that the move was driving up costs across GE’s business.
“We’re not supportive of tariffs, and would rather support free trade. Tariffs raise the cost of manufacture and we would rather not see them,” he said.


OPEC rift deepens as Iran walks out of key meeting in Vienna

Updated 21 June 2018
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OPEC rift deepens as Iran walks out of key meeting in Vienna

VIENNA: Iran's oil minister walked out of a key meeting with OPEC peers on Thursday, as a rift deepened with regional rival Saudi over its push to ramp up the cartel's oil output.
"I do not think we can reach an agreement," Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters at his Vienna hotel after storming out of talks with a group of ministers on the eve of a crucial OPEC meet.
The talks were meant to lay the groundwork for Friday's gathering of the 14-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), when the cartel will discuss easing a supply-cut deal with 10 partner countries that has cleared a global oil supply glut and pushed crude prices to multi-year highs.
The output curbs have been in place since January 2017 but Saudi Arabia, backed by non-member Russia, is now pushing to raise production again in order to meet growing demand in the second half of 2018.
But the proposal has run into resistance from Iran, Iraq and Venezuela, who would struggle to immediately raise output and fear losing market share and revenues if other countries open the spigots.
Iran is particularly vocal about its objections as it braces for the impact of fresh US sanctions on its oil exports after President Donald Trump quit the international nuclear agreement.
But Riyadh, which cheered Washington's exit from the nuclear pact, is under pressure from Trump to boost output in order to lower oil prices ahead of November's midterm elections.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih had earlier signalled a compromise could be in the works.
He acknowledged that a big production hike might be "politically unacceptable" to some OPEC countries and said it was important to be "sensitive" to those concerns.
The 24 nations in the pact, known as OPEC+, initially agreed to trim production by 1.8 million barrels a day but they have actually been keeping more than two million bpd off the market.
Observers believe a face-saving deal could be brokered if members simply stopped over-complying with the current pact, and agreed to stick to the original reduction quotas -- which would bring several hundred thousand more barrels to the market each day.
But that is easier said than done since much of the shortfall has come from Venezuela, where an economic crisis has savaged the nation's petroleum production.
Output has also plummeted in Libya, where fighting between rival factions has damaged key oil infrastructure.