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BSEE Proactively Addressing Cybersecurity and Offshore Energy Production

Kevin M. Sligh Sr.

U.S. offshore energy production on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is being done in a safer and more environmentally responsible manner now than at any time in U.S. history.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) conducts rigorous inspections year-round. BSEE ensures U.S. offshore energy producers are adhering to all safety regulations. We are constantly evaluating technological advancements that could improve safety and environmental protection.

BSEE is also working to minimize physical and cyber threats to offshore energy activities. A recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report recommended that BSEE develop and implement a strategy to address offshore infrastructure risks. As BSEE’s director, and with my background and passion for safety and risk reduction, I take this recommendation seriously and have been working with the BSEE team to ensure we develop a robust strategy to address cybersecurity risks without delay.

BSEE understands the importance of having a robust cybersecurity posture. Prior to my arrival at BSEE in March 2022, BSEE had already begun developing a strategic plan to address cybersecurity challenges in the offshore energy industry because they understood the importance of having a robust cybersecurity posture. BSEE hired a cybersecurity specialist and began working toward an intelligence-based cybersecurity collaboration and oversight program within the bureau.

Through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Validated Architecture Design Review (VADR) process, BSEE will collaborate to develop an operational technology network assessment to identify the strengths and potential weaknesses of networks on the OCS. The VADR assessments will help BSEE identify risks and help the offshore energy industry reduce those risks to their critical infrastructure components, while applying accepted standards, guidelines, and best practices to existing systems. The VADRs will provide offshore operators with findings and practical mitigations to improve their operational maturity and enhance their cybersecurity posture.

BSEE is preparing for future energy production challenges.

BSEE is preparing to meet challenges that the offshore energy industry will face and plans to begin research and systems analysis in the second quarter of FY23. Our efforts will also include evaluating and developing mitigation strategies by working with industry and federal partners. This preparedness includes ensuring our current and future workforces are well-trained to assess and manage challenges, while improving our understanding of underlying causes and risk factors that can contribute to offshore energy incidents. We are building a team of cybersecurity professionals to assess risks to operation technology networks and Industrial Control Systems on the OCS.

BSEE’s capability to effectively oversee offshore cybersecurity will be further enhanced through hosting our first cybersecurity summit, to be held at U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters during the third quarter of FY23. The purpose of the summit is to bring together federal agencies and industry stakeholders to share information on and analysis of cyber threats and vulnerabilities. A collaborative approach to cybersecurity focused on identifying, preventing, and detecting cyber incidents, in addition to responding and recovering from them, will be key to developing a strong and enduring cybersecurity strategy.

As the Biden-Harris administration continues its work to create a clean energy future, BSEE will expand our work to address the cybersecurity of that industry as well. We are taking programmatic steps to safeguard these important energy sources because we believe they are key to enhancing BSEE’s safety and environmental stewardship responsibilities, as well as the safety of all offshore energy operations.

U.S. offshore energy production currently accounts for about 1.73 million barrels of oil per day and 2,150 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. BSEE is the lead federal agency responsible for enforcing safety and environmental regulations related to energy exploration, development, and production operations on the OCS.