NORTH Sea oil platforms could be shut down by cyber terrorists because cost-cutting measures have left them vulnerable, experts have warned.
Auditors KPMG said a decision by many firms to merge computer systems had left the system potentially open to hackers.
The industry has been using separate IT systems for production and general use.
The cost-saving IT merger has made North Sea pipelines at particular risk from commercial espionage or politically-motivated hacking.
Bosses from the oil and gas sector will meet in Aberdeen next week to discuss the issue.
The UK Government estimates companies in the industry lose around £400m each year to copyright theft by cyber criminals.
George Scott, head of information protection and business resilience for KPMG in Scotland, said pressure from competition meant firms were tempted to reduce costs by integration “industrial control systems” with their wider network.
He said: “While this improves efficiency and allows real-time date from field operations to be shared with management onshore, this also exposes pipelines to cyber-attacks they were never designed to resist.
“While the issue of industrial espionage and IP theft is not new, developments in pipeline management which have seen traditionally closed systems integrated with wider networks means oil and gas companies must now also address the very real potential of cyber attacks on their supply.
“With an ever more dispersed worksforce relying on mobile devices to share information, it’s also important oil and gas businesses are aware of the risks and have astrategy to deal with them, by putting in place procedures to police the way mobile technologies are used.”
Robert Paterson, health and safety director at industry body Oil and Gas UK, said talks were being held about the issue
He said: “The industry is very alert to these issues and employs specialists to monitor and address cyber security matters.
“They maintain links with the government.”
A summit will be held in Aberdeen on Tuesday where firms will recieve expert advice on how to make their systems safe.