Energy & Infrastructure

Cybersecurity is critical to protecting the nation’s pipelines

Staff Reports

Protecting the nation’s pipelines against cybersecurity threats is a critical focus for infrastructure companies like Williams.

Matt Bruner, manager of cybersecurity operations

Pipeline infrastructure is a key enabler of economic and national security, so it’s paramount to prevent any vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit, said Matt Bruner, manager of cybersecurity operations.

That’s why Williams is working with federal cyber response agencies, law enforcement, industry associations and third-party vendors to protect the integrity of our systems to ensure the reliable service that powers America.

While October is National Cybersecurity Month, the focus on securing our systems is a daily effort in an attempt to get ahead of new forms of attack, Bruner said.

“We know for sure the United States is a target of nation states that want to affect critical infrastructure and do us harm,” he said. “There are large, almost mafia-like groups, that do nothing but hack people.”

Williams strategy starts with each of its 4,700 employees, who undergo regular training on how to recognize phishing attempts. Williams simulated phishing attacks to test employees and dramatically reduced the number of successful real-life phishing attacks.

“Phishing is the single most effective lever for an attacker to get into an organization,” Bruner said.

Some employees experienced a real-life scenario last year by participating in teams in an escape room exercise, which required them to identify multiple risks from clues in order to “leave” the room.

Williams also conducts regular internal audits and risk strategy sessions to assess threats and has participated in the Department of Homeland Security’s Validated Architecture Design Review to document strengths and identify any gaps in our systems.

“The danger is multifold,” Bruner said. “First and foremost, the world has become more reliant on technology to facilitate safe operations. But with that comes complexity, adding possibly trillions of lines of programming code. It needs to be perfect for someone not to leverage a bug and gain access to an environment.”

Bruner said support from Williams executive officers has been key to fortifying our systems and alerting employees to cyber dangers.