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Cyber Threats: Is Houston’s Petroleum Industry Vulnerable?

FILE - In this file photo dated 1990, Aramco refinery at Ras Tannura, Saudi Arabia. The price of oil surged Friday Jan. 3, 2020, as global investors were gripped with uncertainty over the potential repercussions and any retaliation, after the United States killed Iran's top general Qassem Soleimani.(AP Photo/FILE)
FILE - In this file photo dated 1990, Aramco refinery at Ras Tannura, Saudi Arabia. The price of oil surged Friday Jan. 3, 2020, as global investors were gripped with uncertainty over the potential repercussions and any retaliation, after the United States killed Iran's top general Qassem Soleimani.(AP Photo/FILE) (AP1990)

Houston, Texas. The fourth-largest city in the United States, and the heart of the country’s petroleum industry. The area’s ten oil refineries produce more than 2.6 million barrels of oil each day, which is nearly 14% of U.S. daily production. Add in dozens of petrochemical plants, and you’ve got a target-rich environment for cyber attackers.

In August, 2017, a Saudi Arabian petrochemical facility was hit with a cyberattack designed not just to disrupt production and access data, but to trigger a massive explosion as well.

From the New York Times:

“The attack was a dangerous escalation in international hacking, as faceless enemies demonstrated both the drive and the ability to inflict serious physical damage. And United States government officials, their allies and cybersecurity researchers worry that the culprits could replicate it in other countries, since thousands of industrial plants all over the world rely on the same American-engineered computer systems that were compromised.”

On Thursday, Channel 2 Investigates Houston’s cyber threats... just how vulnerable are our oil and gas facilities, and how could a successful attack impact people’s lives?