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The Mining Industry is Unprepared for its Next Big Threat: Cybersecurity

As an industry, mining is always in flux. Whether its responding to changing regulations or adapting to levels of consumer demand, the sector has always had to adjust to new challenges. The newest test on the horizon is the threat of a cyber security incident. Due to its global nature, the industry would understandably have a reliance on digital functionality. Company records, details of operation and financial data are all examples of the sensitive information stored on a business’s network. While virtually every industry is vulnerable to some type of digital intrusion, the mining industry is unique in that their network holds the capabilities to control machinery, significant amounts of electricity and other vital operational functions.

In March 2019, a large aluminum manufacturer was hit with a cybersecurity breach after a ransom demand by unknown hackers. The company moved swiftly to switch to manual operations in work areas to minimize interference. Luckily, no one was hurt as a result, but their entire network was down for a period, halting both production and corporate activities. 

Though distressing for the affected target, much of the industry is vulnerable to such attacks and these incidents can happen virtually anywhere. When surveyed, a whopping 97% of respondents say that their cybersecurity is inadequate. It’s an alarming admission as the threat shows no signs of subsiding. Due to the nature of active production and the sheer volume of employees involve in even small-scale operations, a potential delay from an online attack could be catastrophic to the business.  

Still, the sector, like many others, has been slow to tackle this complex threat. These types of breaches are extremely difficult to detect and proactively prevent. For most of its existence, mining leadership were more focused on the immediate physical threats associated with operating in isolated regions such as natural disasters, employee safety and local relations. 

Digital hazards are largely an unknown. The problem is made more complex due to its dynamic nature. Malware, a damaging computer program such as a virus, is constantly changing and upgrading to bypass created defenses. According to experts, there is no sure-fire, airtight method for complete protection.

This doesn’t mean that security is impossible. Rather, a solid approach is to ensure digital safeguards and up-to-date IT upgrades for encrypting sensitive data and functions. Companies should also establish a proactive plan for a possible breach including an efficient method of information distribution and a list of critical operations that should be paused in case of interference. 

 Cybersecurity risks are unavoidable, but businesses don’t have to be passive victims.