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North Sea warned of cyber threat from workers ‘angry’ over rota changes

North Sea jobs
Offshore workers arrive on their platform by helicopter

The North Sea oil industry has been warned of the cyber security threat from “angry” workers facing rota changes.

Ben Dickinson, global cyber security lead for oil and gas at ABB, addressed an audience at Offshore Europe last week.

The consultant said the “insider threat” from workers is one that companies should be aware of.

He referenced recent rota changes, from two weeks working offshore to three weeks, which could cause workers to become “annoyed” and take action.

However the Unite union said workers would not be “petty or daft enough” to do so.

Mr Dickinson said: “There was recently an organisation up here which was changing terms and conditions, so people were going offshore for three weeks instead of two weeks and people get upset.

“When we went to visit them, they had a lot of security guards outside the entrance because they were worried about people coming in to protest or even worse.

“That’s a good example where an employee could think just off the cuff, when they’re sat offshore, ‘I’m really annoyed that I don’t get to go home. I have access to this system, all I need to do is flick a switch or put a memory stick in. What am I going to do about it?’”

Last summer there were a series of rota changes in the North Sea, with some firms moving to three weeks on, three weeks off (3:3), others keeping 3:3 in return for additional compensation, and some going from 3:3 to 2:3 and other variations.

It came amid concerns around the health and wellbeing of those working offshore for three weeks at a time.

Recently the Health and Safety Executive said there are “knowledge gaps” on the effects of 3:3, with there now being “more variation than ever” in offshore shift patterns.

Mr Dickinson said firms need to be aware there could be unforeseen consequences.

He added: “Just ensure that as part of the risk assessment you’re thinking about the segregation of duties and what each group of individuals on that platform are capable of doing should they have a motivation and anger towards their employer.”

In response the Unite union said: “The 3/3 rota is almost universally despised offshore.

“However, our members are not petty or daft enough to launch a wild vendetta or sabotage their companies.

“They will organise and win as a group, just like they have done on chopper safety and various other issues.”

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