Mining Companies target of Cyber Attacks

November 15, 2013


As the mining industry catches up with modern technology, many operations that now rely on inter-connected systems are finding themselves the target of hackers. According to a recent survey by Ernst & Young, 41% of mining companies polled said they faced a rising number of external threats, including cyber attacks and hackers gaining access to information and disrupting operations.


An industry that has relied so much on trucks, equipment and manual labor is now finding its systems lag behind in terms of security, making mining operations more susceptible to hackers.


Mike Elliot, a global mining and metals leader for Ernst & Young told PC World, "They (mining companies) don't see themselves like consumer organizations that hold large amounts of credits card details. They're not like a financial institution sitting on large amounts of cash and security. Hence they think they're not really a target".


However, mining operations contain valuable information that can be used to disrupt markets and the price of raw metals. According to PC World, some hackers hunt information about business deals, while others seek to disrupt the metals market for profit. Copper is a particularly price-sensitive metal due to tight supply, and the closure of one or two mines can cause its price to spike.


Mining operations can also be targeted by environmental groups that seek to disrupt communication and operations to halt digging in what environmentalists consider protected land. Because many mining companies are using dated systems and technology it is very easy for hackers to infiltrate their networks and either steal information or install malicious code that can bring a system down.


Computer security experts have been warning companies for years that the industrial control systems used by utilities, manufacturers and the energy industry and vulnerable to attacks due to lax software security and outdated operating systems.