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NATO Ex-Commander General Shirreff : Oil & Gas Industry should Take a Strategic Approach to Security

In his key note address at ADIPEC ‘Security in Energy’ Conference on November 8 in Abu Dhabi, Shirreff said “Risks are not easily defined, and cover an intricate kaleidoscope of potential threats… organised crime, terrorist attacks, and cybersecurity
ADIPEC 2016 - Sir Richard Shirreff,

NATO Ex-Commander General Shirreff urged oil industry to adapt to changes in international security and initiate strategic approaches.

In his key note address at ADIPEC ‘Security in Energy’ Conference on November 8 in Abu Dhabi, Shirreff  said “Risks are not easily defined, and cover an intricate kaleidoscope of potential threats… organised crime, terrorist attacks, and cybersecurity.”

Sir Richard said the oil industry faced an increasingly complex and interconnected range of threats from technology and geopolitics. To counter this, they needed to shift their approach to security from one of reacting to threats, to one of preventing them.

“Those operating in complex environments need to think of risk strategically,” said Sir Richard. “Security is more than having weapons and guards at your door – it is state of mind and stems from within the society in which it operates.

“Unfortunately it is too often the case that the industry has a binary sense of security. Companies must understand that these risks are interrelated; what you do on the tech side, for example, could have an impact environmentally, socially, and on security.”

Sir Richard said the oil and gas industries had a better understanding than many of how to manage security issues effectively, due to their experience of managing extensive critical infrastructure, often in sensitive environments.
Companies needed to think “comprehensively, and cohesively about risk management”, building bridges with multiple stakeholders, understanding the environments they operated in, being aware of geopolitical, transnational, and local risks. This included working to build stability in fragile communities, recognising that good governance, healthcare, education, and employment opportunities all contribute towards their own operational security.

“These risks are not easily defined, and cover an intricate kaleidoscope of potential threats, including organised crime, terrorist attacks, and cyber-security breaches,” Sir Richard said. “This all comes back to the oil and gas industry, because so much of it operates in politically sensitive parts of the world, making it susceptible to infractions and threats of activism.

“Oil and gas is of course fundamental to every aspect of economic and national development, and is a source of political and operational strength – these inherent characteristics of the industry also make it susceptible to abuse.”
Two challenges Sir Richard identified as particularly relevant today were the current economic climate, which could lead companies to operate closer to their financial margins and take more risks, and the threat of digital attacks.
He said it was impossible to overstate the importance of cyber-security, citing the release of the Panama Papers as an example of how easily a secure network could be breached, exposing a company to a release of sensitive information or the risk of an attack on their networks.

Government regulators should play a role in both establishing and enforcing protocols and procedures, holding people accountable for security breaches, and there must be a close working relationship between government agencies and private organisations, with constant communication and each one seeking the strategic advice of the other, he noted.

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