Cyber attacks against oil and gas firms have risen by 400% in the past year amid growing fears that hackers could have the power to shut down North Sea platforms.
Technology firm Cisco said that vulnerabilities in computer systems and the threat from hackers has reached the highest level since 2000.
The firm said there has been “unprecedented growth” in the amount of malicious cyber campaigns against major companies.
Pharmaceuticals, mining and electronics firms have seen the biggest increase – up more than 600%.
John Stewart, chief security officer at Cisco, said: “To truly protect against all of these possible attacks, defenders must understand the attackers, their motivations and their methods – before, during and after an attack.”
Attacks against energy firms are up 400% on a year ago, according to Cisco. The figures come just months after business advisory giant KPMG warned that cyber terrorists can now shut down North Sea oil and gas platforms – because industry cost-cutting measures have left crucial computer systems at risk.
Specialists fear the decision taken by many firms to merge key production systems with their general IT networks has left them vulnerable. There are warnings that systems which control the flow of oil and gas through pipelines could be the targets of espionage.
Oil and Gas UK said it was “very alert” to the threat, and was liaising with the Westminster government.