How cybersecurity impacts corporate reputations

At the end of May, my colleague Jack Porter and I had the pleasure of attending CYBSEC-EXPO, an insightful new cybersecurity exhibition co-located with Pipeline & Gas Expo 2024 in Piacenza, Italy. This event, organised by Mediapoint & Exhibitions, was launched in response to growing cybersecurity concerns voiced by participants at the 2022 Pipeline & Gas Expo. 

According to the International Energy Agency, cyberattacks against utilities doubled worldwide between 2020 and 2022, reaching approximately 1,000 registered incidents per week. However, there was one incident in particular that sent alarm bells ringing for the Pipeline & Gas audience, namely the 2021 cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, one of the largest and most vital oil pipelines in the USA. 

When Colonial Pipeline’s IT systems were hacked and infected with ransomware, the company not only suffered substantial financial losses but also had to shut down the pipeline for six days. This pipeline supplies almost half of the fuel for the East Coast and its shutdown led to a jet fuel shortage, panic buying at gas stations, a spike in gas prices, and President Biden declaring a state of emergency. Such a scenario is a nightmare any company would want to avoid. 

The main message we took away from CYBSEC-EXPO, however, is that the role of cybersecurity in reputation management goes beyond avoiding negative headlines and disgruntled customers. Proactively communicating about cybersecurity investments can actually help build trust among customers and other stakeholders – trust that operations will continue safely without disruption and that sensitive data will not be stolen and sold on the dark web. 

This perspective was reinforced during a conference session featuring port operators and maritime services companies on how robust cybersecurity can serve as a competitive advantage – and echoed during a conversation with accredited certification body SIET on the exhibition floor. 

SIET explained that more and more companies are seeking certification according to ISO/IEC 27001 for information security management systems (ISMS) as a way to demonstrate how serious they are about cybersecurity and data protection, and to gain an edge when competing for contracts. Similar to the way purchasing departments are placing increasing scrutiny on suppliers’ environmental credentials, SIET expects cybersecurity engagement to become a more common contractual requirement in the future. 

Until then, there is a window of opportunity for companies to show leadership in the cybersecurity space. By doing so, they can not only protect against potential threats but solidify their reputations as informed, proactive, and secure business partners in a digital age where cybersecurity is paramount.  

Need help with communicating your cybersecurity investments? Get in touch. It would be our pleasure to discuss it with you. 

By Hannah Kitchener

Associate Director

About the Author

Hannah is an associate director based in the UK, who leverages her strategic, campaign management, and written content creation expertise to support clients in the construction, energy, and materials handling sectors across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). With a professional qualification in Journalism from the National Council of Training for Journalism in the UK, Hannah has strong interviewing and writing skills that enable her to craft compelling content for clients across multiple platforms. Her experience and knowledge of the construction, energy, and materials handling sectors, meanwhile, have helped her build a strong network of trade media contacts across the EMEA region, enabling her to secure meaningful media coverage for clients. In addition to her journalism training, Hannah’s academic qualifications have further honed her ability to communicate across cultures and languages. Having studied French and German at BA level, and with an MA in Translation, Hannah has a passion for inter-cultural communication, which is invaluable to SE10 in executing PR campaigns across multiple markets and in several languages.