How to Survive a Rig Inspection: Part 7

Cybersecurity

In this series, our head of Rig Inspection Services Steven Lee shares tips on how operators and owners can get through rig inspections with flying colours – and which pitfalls to avoid! Mr Lee has more than a hundred rig inspections under his belt, from all parts of the world. This chapter looks at cybersecurity issues.

When considering cybersecurity on drilling units, there are a few key areas that any good inspector will focus on to gain an understanding of the robustness of the systems on board. This can include the actual IT and OT systems, or even management systems such as Policies & Procedures and how they are followed. Ultimately, the personnel on board a unit are the first line of defence for cybersecurity threats and their awareness of cybersecurity can make a big impact on the underlying strength of the cyber defences.

It is common for drilling control chairs to have ports to connect peripherals for troubleshooting purposes. On a newly delivered jack-up rig, which had numerous teething issues with its drilling control system, further investigations discovered that music files had been copied onto one of the drilling control system client computers. It was suspected that this was due to someone charging their phone on one of the USB sockets fitted to the drilling control chair.

In that instance, it was harmless enough, although it could have introduced some lag to the system. However, what if the phone had been infected with malware or, worse still, been deliberately programmed to infiltrate the system? In order to comply with IADC guidelines that a policy should be developed and enforced to restrict the use of removable media, best practices have included physical blocking or disconnection of such ports to prevent unauthorised access.

Another threat area is the management of remote diagnostic systems. A well-known example in the industry is that of an OEM technician who was connected to a BOP MUX control system on a rig in order to perform troubleshooting, which activated a function on the system. Unfortunately, the technician was connected to the wrong rig and therefore activated a function on the wrong rig. The consequences of this could have been catastrophic if it was a riser connector unlock function or a shear ram close command whilst the BOP was on the wellhead. This highlights the need to follow best practice and control remote access to systems effectively.

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