News / Economy

Miners Face Rising Threat of Cyber-Attacks

Mining operations can be seen at the Rio Tinto alumina refinery and bauxite mine in Gove, also known as Nhulunbuy, located 650 kilometers (404 miles) east of Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory, July 21, 2013.
Mining operations can be seen at the Rio Tinto alumina refinery and bauxite mine in Gove, also known as Nhulunbuy, located 650 kilometers (404 miles) east of Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory, July 21, 2013.
Reuters
Miners are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber-hacking as they slash costs, automate equipment, rely more on the internet, and run mines from hundreds of kilometers away, a survey of nearly 40 mining companies has found.

Threats can come from criminals looking to make money from supply disruptions, rivals hunting business secrets, governments and state-owned firms looking for a leg up in contract talks, and political and anti-mining activists, according to a report by Ernst & Young.

More than 40 percent of metals and mining companies in the survey experienced a rise in external threats over the past 12 months.

“Criminals are attracted to the sector because of the massive cash flows,” the advisory firm said in its report.

The most vulnerable miners are small to mid-sized companies who produce strategic metals such as rare earths, tin and tungsten, rather than the mega miners, who have tightened security in their systems over the past few years.

“The big miners have more sophistication in their risk management systems and probably have already experienced some degree of hacking activity in the last couple of years. For them it's a real life battle,” said Mike Elliott, Ernst & Young's global metals and mining leader.

Back in 2009, former BHP Billiton Chief Executive Marius Kloppers told a U.S. diplomat in Melbourne he was worried about espionage by China and competitors like Rio Tinto , according to a report on a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

Elliott said one fairly large miner was hit by a cyber-attack in the past two years which it detected only by accident when it was examining the reliability of a piece of equipment in its supply chain.

The company discovered coding in the software for the equipment had been changed with an unauthorized amendment.

“It was designed to cause a problem that never eventuated because they picked it up,” Elliott told Reuters. He declined to name the company that was targeted or where it was located.

“There are a lot more victims of this sort of activity than would be reported, because people don't like to talk about when these things are detected,” he added.

Iron ore miners are so aware of threats that one large producer requires staff to remove the batteries from their mobile phones at their most sensitive meetings, a person familiar with the company told Reuters.

Smaller miners are more vulnerable to cyber-hacking because they don't see themselves as targets, and as they look to cut costs they are increasingly using web-connected technology and automated systems which could be infiltrated.

Web sites are easy targets for political and social activists, or hacktivists. A hacker defaced and blocked access to rare earths producer Lynas Corp's web site last year as part of a campaign against the opening of a processing plant in Malaysia.

Lynas has since moved its web site in-house.

“It was a wake-up call for us to bring the web site under the control of IT and have them secure it in the same way as our internal networks,” said Gillian Kidson, Lynas Corp's general manager of IT.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8050
JPY
USD
117.90
GBP
USD
0.6376
CAD
USD
1.1259
INR
USD
61.655

Rates may not be current.