Belinda Quijano
Director General
Apollo Communications
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Apollo Communications Readies Itself for Looming Cyberthreats

By Peter Appleby | Thu, 12/03/2020 - 12:14

Q: How is Apollo preparing itself for the future beyond COVID-19?

A: Nobody expected the crisis that occurred in 2020. Nevertheless, Apollo Communications has been successful in working through the pandemic and reshaping our strategy to face the new market reality.

We have been facing two elements. One was the pandemic and how it changed the way we work and how we approach customers. As a consequence, we had to find novel ways to keep in touch with clients and work toward their goals. On the other hand, we had to develop a strategy that was aligned with the direction the federal government is taking toward the oil and gas and energy, including new guidance on PEMEX, CFE and CENEGAS. We are still working with private companies, and have worked with PEMEX on its new key projects announced by the government. These include the Dos Bocas refinery and the associated CFE projects.

Parallel to this, we have been creating a service portfolio that is more relevant to the needs of companies. For example, our core is telecommunications and telemetry, the systems that transport data in a secure way using a SCADA system. Automation and control are also specialties. Nevertheless, we have added industrial cybersecurity to our portfolio. We are becoming further digitized as we carry out our work remotely. Although the pandemic has accelerated our move toward a remote working style, we were already on our way. We are now securely onboard, offering these innovative solutions to the industry in the way our clients want to receive them.

We have been offered partnerships from Israel, which is a hotbed for tech-led solutions and start-ups, but we believe that it is in the best interest of our clients and ourselves to develop according to Mexican industry requirements. During the lockdown and home office, we have taken the opportunity to reinforce our qualities and strengthen our team. We have hired more technical experts to add expertise to the team so that we can provide assertive tech solutions.

 

Q: What is Apollo Communication’s role with PEMEX and in the Dos Bocas refinery construction?

A: Apollo Communications is engaged in supporting PEMEX to adapt to telecommunications solutions with a particular focus on cybersecurity. We are also working with IMP and all of the EPC companies that won the Dos Bocas refinery packages. We are working with them to provide new solutions surrounding both automation and control, as well as cybersecurity.

In PEMEX and many other companies, data has not usually been kept in a format best suited to the digital world. We need the digital information to use the data for improved predictive and preventative means, and the implementation of data into digital has been a challenge. Nevertheless, over the last 10 years, the industry as a whole has moved toward digitization and in the near future we will be able to easily access historical information digitally. IoT, machine learning and big data will all aid in capturing more from this historical information.

On the private side we are mainly involved in midstream. We enjoy strong relationships with companies involved in pipeline and storage terminal construction and management. We cover issues like Terminal Management Systems and integral solutions for storage terminals, some of the most vital areas these companies are involved in.

 

Q: How have the company’s main business lines, telecommunications and cybersecurity, grown despite COVID-19?

A: We have seen growth in both areas despite the pandemic. The growth has met expectations on the telecommunications side. This area has grown steadily without a rapid increase.

Nevertheless, we have noticed a considerable increase in awareness from the industry regarding cybersecurity, the threat of cyberattacks and the management of data. For this reason, we believe that there is a huge opportunity in that area.

Working from home obviously provided challenges with client communication and the ways that we can explain our services to clients. Home office requires that we adopt new procedures and offer new ways to train staff on new technologies so that we can continue working in a safe and secure manner. But it also offers an opportunity to help clients in new ways, including new devices, software and firewalls. In this way, we can support companies like CENEGAS to provide data to different points, and PEMEX in the area of Operations and Technology (OT). Client training has also been a challenge but one we have overcome via our hyper-realistic training platforms, which put clients into scenarios that test cybersecurity protocols and test their staff´s capabilities.

 

Q: How does Apollo make clear the danger of cyberthreats to companies in an industry that is a notoriously late adopter?

A: The question is not if a company will be a target of a cyberthreat but when. This is the reality and companies must be prepared. While today strong cybersecurity measures can be seen as a competitive advantage, offering productivity and continuity regardless of external threats, tomorrow, strong security measures must be taken into consideration. As we know, PEMEX experienced a significant attack this year. Both PEMEX and all private companies must be aware of the requirement of cybersecurity.  

 

Q: What important cybersecurity measures should companies in Mexico implement?

A: Most companies have implemented a cybersecurity strategy but only in their IT area. For example, strong security measures in emails, on the company website or on endpoints. It is important that companies become aware of the operational security risks and their intel base within plants and storage terminals. These are equally as important to protect, particularly with the SCADA systems and various types of software implemented within operational plans. These must all be monitored, just like the VPNs. There are few well-prepared companies in this sense but Apollo Communications has an integral vision and holistic solution that can integrate into both the IT and OT areas to provide global solutions.

Apollo is one of the most experienced companies in this area in Mexico. We have worked on major projects in industries like mining, as well as oil and gas. We have implemented these technologies and they have proved successful.

 

Apollo Communications is a Mexican telecommunications and digital security company that focuses primarily on oil and gas. It is one of the most experienced cybersecurity companies in the country.

Peter Appleby Peter Appleby Journalist and Industry Analyst