Council on Foreign Relations Press
In this Energy Brief, Blake Clayton and Adam Segal argue that cyber threats to oil and gas suppliers pose an increasingly challenging problem for U.S. national security and economic competitiveness. Attacks can take many forms, ranging from cyber espionage by foreign intelligence services to attempts to interrupt a company's physical operations. These threats have grown more sophisticated over time, making them more difficult to detect and defend against. So too have the actors behind them, which have evolved from lone hackers with few resources to state-sponsored teams of programming experts. Several of the world's major oil and gas producers, including Saudi Aramco (officially the Saudi Arabian Oil Company) and Qatar's RasGas, have fallen victim to cyberattacks since 2009. Others, such as Chevron, have also had their networks infected.
Clayton and Segal contend some damage was done in each of these cases, but the costs of future breaches could be much higher, whether to corporate assets, public infrastructure and safety, or the broader economy through energy prices. Successful cyberattacks threaten the competitiveness of the U.S. oil and gas industry, one of the nation's most technically advanced and economically important sectors. While intrusions previously focused on the theft of intellectual property and business strategies, the malware attack on Saudi Aramco reflects a worrying qualitative change toward attacks with the potential for causing physical disruptions to the oil and gas supply chain.
Blake Clayton is fellow for energy and national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Adam Segal is the Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. An expert on security issues, technology development, and Chinese domestic and foreign policy, Segal currently leads the cyberconflict and cybersecurity initiative and is director of the Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy the Digital Age. His recent book, Advantage: How American Innovation Can Overcome the Asian Challenge, looks at the technological rise of Asia.
Subscribe to CFR's Publications Quarterly
CFR experts investigate the impact of information and communication technologies on security, privacy, and international affairs.
Receive Blog Posts by Email
CFR experts examine domestic and foreign policy questions surrounding energy, security, and climate change.
Receive Blog Posts by Email
A World in Disarray
CFR President Haass argues for an updated global operating system to address challenges from terrorism to climate change. More
Failure to Adjust
Alden provides an enlightening history of the last four decades of U.S. trade policies and a blueprint for how to keep the United States competitive in a globalized economy. More
The Man Who Knew
In this award-winning biography of Alan Greenspan, Mallaby explores Greenspan's life and legacy and tells the story of the making of modern finance. More
View Complete List
Independent Task Force Reports
2016 Annual Report
Highlights From 2015–2016
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2016 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass.
Read and download »
The Fall 2016 issue
of CFR's member newsletter, the Chronicle
, is a guide to CFR's most important news since August 2016, and includes announcements about new programs, partnerships, fellows, meetings, publications, and members. Read it now.
Now Available: Foreign Policy Begins at Home
New Foreign Affairs eBook: Tiananmen and After