Among the information shared at the West Virginia Energy Infrastructure Summit in Charleston Thursday was how companies can protect themselves and the environment.
Joshua Spence, the state’s chief technology officer and cyber operations officer with the West Virginia Air National Guard, was one of the presenters. He said one of the challenges with non-tech industries venturing into cybersecurity is demystifying it.
“Unfortunately, we’ve opened the Pandora’s box and there’s no going back, so we need to make sure we understand that threat,” Spence said referring to the vulnerability that comes with today’s interconnected technology.
An easy way to approach cybersecurity, he said, is to think of it as fireproofing a building: Making a building fireproof is impossible, but there are preventive measures to take and appropriate ways to respond when a fire does occur.
“The same principle can be applied to asset protection,” Spence said.
Companies should not entrust cybersecurity solely to their regular IT staff, Spence said. He urged business representatives in attendance to consult professionals.
Also speaking at the summit Thursday was Roger Baker.
Baker, who has a background in law enforcement, established B3 Security, which provides site security and training to companies’ own security staff.
Baker emphasized the importance of de-escalation of conflict, which is particularly important in dealing with protesters at construction sites or other energy facilities.
The security issues discussed Thursday weren’t limited to human activities.
Joe Loudin, drone pilot with SLS, noted how time-consuming it can be to travel — either on foot or by truck — to cover miles of natural gas pipeline to search for leaks.
“I said there’s got to be an easier way to do this,” Loudin said.
Then he had the idea of attaching a methane detector to an aerial drone.
Drones such as the MD4-1000 have a flying time of about 42 minutes with a methane detector attached, Loudin said.
The methane detector itself uses live telemetry, meaning it can detect methane parts per million in the air and provide accurate GPS coordinates so crews can find a leak and repair it faster.
“Its capabilities are endless,” Loudin said.
He said methane-detecting drones don’t eliminate jobs, but rather expand demand for more boots on the ground because more leaks can be detected and fixed.
“There’s a lot of opportunities out there for drone pilots,” he said.
Loudin said using drones for mapping also provides more precise data collection, results in fewer injuries among workers in the field, covers more ground than workers on foot and improves response times.
Moderating the security panel was retired U.S. Army Capt. James McCormick, director of veteran organization AdvocatesIncDC.
McCormick spoke about how many veterans are trained in the areas of security — both physical and cyber — and drone operations.
He said further security development by the energy industry could create more opportunities for veterans to find work and even move to West Virginia to offset some of the state’s population decline.