NIS 2 – Energy – Implementing cyber security measures in essential services: A critical need


The growing dependence on digital infrastructure in various sectors has exponentially increased the risk of cyber threats. These threats can lead to catastrophic consequences if not properly managed, especially in essential services. Cyber-attacks can disrupt critical operations, compromise sensitive data and cause financial and reputational damage. The NIS 2 Directive seeks to address these risks by mandating robust cybersecurity measures in critical sectors.

Essential services such as energy, transport, banking and healthcare are the backbone of modern society. Disruption can have far-reaching consequences, affecting not only the immediate sector, but also the economy and public safety. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, it is crucial to implement comprehensive cyber security strategies to protect these services from potential attacks.

This paper aims to highlight the importance of implementing these measures by examining potential threats and their impact on essential services. By understanding the risks and the necessary cybersecurity measures, we can better protect critical infrastructure and ensure the continuity of essential services.

Overview of the NIS 2 Directive

The Networks and Information Systems (NIS) 2 Directive is a key piece of EU legislation designed to improve the cyber security of critical infrastructure. It extends the scope of the original NIS Directive, increasing the obligations for Member States and operators of essential services to enhance their cybersecurity capabilities.

Key objectives of the NIS 2 Directive

  • Strengthening cyber security: Improving the security of networks and information systems across the EU.
  • Increased cooperation: Improved cooperation between Member States and the European Union Cyber Security Agency (ENISA).
  • Harmonization of regulations: Ensure consistent cybersecurity requirements across Member States.
  • Improve incident reporting: Establish mandatory reporting of significant cyber incidents to relevant authorities.

Key provisions

  • Broad scope: Includes additional sectors such as health, digital infrastructure and space.
  • Risk management: requires operators to adopt risk management practices, including technical and organizational measures.
  • Incident Response: Mandates the development and implementation of incident response plans.
  • Supply chain security: emphasizes the need to address cyber security risks in the supply chain.

Key services and potential cyber threats

  • Energy
  • Transportation
  • Banks
  • Financial market infrastructures
  • Health sector
  • Drinking water supply and distribution
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Public administration
  • Spazio



The energy sector covers the production, transmission and distribution of electricity, oil and natural gas. It is fundamental to the functioning of all other sectors.

Potential cyber threats:

  1. Grid Outage:
    • Description:Attacks on control systems, such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, can cause widespread power outages.
    • Impact: It affects homes, businesses and critical services such as hospitals and emergency response, leading to economic and social chaos.
    • Examples: the 2015 attack on Ukraine’s electricity grid by the Sandworm group, which caused widespread blackouts.
  2. Oil and Gas pipeline disruptions:
    • Description:Cyber intrusions can shut down pipeline operations by targeting industrial control systems (ICS), resulting in significant supply shortages and economic losses.
    • Impact: Disrupts fuel supplies to industries, transportation and homes, causing economic instability and environmental risks.
    • Case in point: the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline in 2021, which disrupted fuel supplies across the eastern United States.
  3. Security breaches at Nuclear Power Plants:
    • Description: Compromise of nuclear facilities can lead to unauthorized access to critical systems, potentially resulting in dangerous radiation releases.
    • Impact: Severe health and environmental risks, long-term contamination and loss of public confidence in nuclear safety.
    • Example: the Stuxnet worm, which targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities, highlighting vulnerabilities in nuclear security.
  4. Attacks on the Energy Supply Chain:
    • Description: Supply chain disruption can disrupt the delivery of essential resources such as fuel and equipment, paralyzing energy production and distribution.
    • Impact: Causes delays and shortages in energy supply, affecting all dependent sectors and potentially leading to cascading failures.
    • Examples: attacks on third-party suppliers and vendors, such as the SolarWinds hack, which demonstrated the potential for supply chain vulnerabilities to be exploited.

Mitigation Strategies:

  • Cybersecurity Incident Monitoring and Response : Implement advanced monitoring systems to detect and respond to threats in real time.
  • Security Audits and Penetration Tests: Conduct regular security audits and penetration tests to identify and address vulnerabilities.
  • Supply chain security: Enhance the security of supply chain operations through strict supplier verification and continuous monitoring.
  • Incident Response Planning: Develop and regularly update incident response plans to ensure rapid and effective responses to cyber incidents.
  • Collaboration and information sharing: Promote collaboration between industry stakeholders and government agencies to share threat intelligence and best practices.

By understanding these potential threats and implementing robust mitigation strategies, the energy sector can increase resilience against cyber-attacks and ensure the continued provision of essential services.