Cybersecurity identified as the top focus of upstream oil and gas industry

Cybersecurity has emerged as the top focus of upstream oil and gas companies’ digital investments, according to a new report from Accenture.

The “Accenture Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey 2019,” the seventh edition of Accenture’s report on digital technologies in the upstream oil and gas industry, is based on a global survey of 255 industry professionals, including C-suite executives, functional leaders and engineers.

When respondents were asked which digital technologies their organizations are investing in today, cybersecurity was cited more than any other, by 61% of respondents — five times higher than the 12% who made that claim in 2017. The report suggests that the focus on cyber resilience is increasing sharply as oil companies seek to protect their assets and reputations.

Cybersecurity was also cited by more respondents (16%) than any other digital solutions when asked which were driving the greatest impact in terms of business performance, up from 9% in 2017.

With their increased investments in cybersecurity today, only 5% of respondents see increased vulnerability to cyberattacks as the biggest risk from a lack of investment in digital — less than one-third the number (18%) who made this claim in 2017. This might explain why only 35% of respondents plan to invest in cybersecurity over the next three to five years.

“As oil companies’ operations come under increasing threat, cyber resilience becomes more important to stakeholders, consumers and government,” said Rich Holsman, a managing director at Accenture who leads the digital practice in the company’s Resources operating group. “Managing attacks isn’t just a matter of protecting reputation, share price and operations, but it’s part of a greater responsibility for national services and security. Upstream businesses must continue to invest thoughtfully and substantially in cybersecurity measures, as they often underestimate their exposure to such attacks, which are also increasing in technical complexity.”

The survey identified cloud technologies as the second-biggest focus for digital investment, cited by more than half (53%) of companies. In fact, 15% of respondents identified cloud technologies as digital solutions driving the greatest business performance impact. The report suggests that oil and gas companies are still investing heavily in cloud technologies because they are a foundation for their digital transformational journeys and for greater operational security.

Additionally, the percentage of respondents who cited artificial intelligence (AI) as driving the greatest business performance impact more than doubled from 2017, from 4% to 9%.

The Accenture Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey 2019 was conducted online by PennEnergy Research in partnership with the Oil & Gas Journal between March and May 2019. The survey comprised 255 respondents from 47 countries, who included C-level executives, vice presidents, business unit leads, mid-level management, information technology professionals, engineers and project managers from a cross-section of national oil companies, international oil companies, independent oil companies and oilfield services companies. The final results and analysis were supported by Accenture Research