SecureNOK Rides the Wave With Cyberdefense for Energy Companies

Technology advances have made it easier than ever to install and monitor drilling platforms hundreds of miles out into the sea or deep into isolated parts of our planet. But it’s that very connectedness that makes these facilities so vulnerable to attack.

Enter SecureNOK, a Norway-born and Houston-bred energy cybersecurity startup, which says its software can detect and defuse malware before it can wreak havoc.

And it’s now signed a four-year contract with Houston-based National Oilwell Varco, NOV, one of the world’s largest oil and gas equipment suppliers. Starting in April, SecureNOK will deploy its software to Varco’s land rigs with an eye toward expanding offshore at some point.

“The software rests inside the equipment’s controller where it can see what happens inside the machine,” says Siv Houmb, SecureNOK’s founder. “It’s able to distinguish what’s normal and what’s potentially malicious.”

Terms of the contract were not disclosed but the companies will announce the partnership Friday at a Houston reception hosted by Innovation Norway.

Kirk Coburn, founder and managing director of cleantech accelerator Surge, says he’s not surprised NOV—with operations in 1,160 locations worldwide—would be keen to bring in SecureNOK’s software. “SecureNOK designed its solution from day one for oil and gas,” he says. “This is not a solution that was developed for multiple industries or a different one and then later applied.”

Houmb, who teaches cyber-security at Gjøvik University College in Norway, was one of Surge’s entrepreneurs last year, and she has since then opened an office in Houston.

In recent years, energy companies have been a particular target of cyberattacks. Oil and gas producers were hit by more targeted malware attacks in a six-month period in 2012 than any other industry, according to a 2013 report by the Council on Foreign Relations. Malware called “Shamoon” attacked Saudi Aramco in 2012, disabling about 30,000 computers at the state-owned oil company, which is OPEC’s biggest crude exporter. Stuxnet, which is believed to have been created by the United States and Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear program, ended up also affecting uninvolved companies such as Chevron.

The number of these attacks will only grow, Houmb says. Her company has developed … Next Page »

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