It’s becoming more common these days to hear about cyberattacks in the Middle East’s oil and gas sector. Just this past August alone, two of the region’s oil and gas giants were hit by viruses that caused them to go offline for days. A malware attack against Saudi Aramco forced the world’s largest oil company to take down its companywide office systems for 12 days.  Soon after, RasGas, the second largest producer of Qatari LNG after Qatar Petroleum, was hit by an “unknown virus” that took the company offline.

The daunting part is that these attacks are becoming more sophisticated over time. Usually, these types of viruses are designed to steal highly sensitive competitive information and gather intelligence like design documents and assets from oil and gas companies. As a result, cyberdefense is becoming a top development priority in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia plans to invest $3.3 billion in oil and gas infrastructure security, with others soon to follow.

Cyberattacks are one of many trends shaping IT spending in the region’s oil and gas sector. We’ve also been seeing more IT spending going to:

  • Information management. Over the years, oil and gas companies that have to deal with unpredictable oil prices have limited their hiring of new employees, which has contributed to the industry’s skill shortages. As a result, oil and gas companies are constantly seeking information management tools to increase the utilization of their current employees’ expertise.
  • High-performance computing and advanced analytics. As data volumes continue to grow, oil and gas companies continue to invest in high-performance computing and advanced analytics technologies, with speed and reliability as top criteria.
  • Supply chain optimization projects. The distributed nature of the sector’s assets has led companies to leverage technology to improve information and process integration wherever possible.
  • Petrochemical projects. As a part of a regionwide strategy to diversify the economy, the Middle East has witnessed strong growth in the petrochemicals sector; as a result, they’ve launched more IT training programs.

These trends are discussed in more detail in my recently published report, IT Investments Drive Operational Efficiency Across The Middle East’s Oil And Gas Sector.  And over the next five years, Forrester expects the sector’s operational efficiency strategy to drive IT investments beyond these trends.