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U.S. Energy Unit ‘Satisfied’ With Shields From Cyberthreats

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has taken steps to ensure that weekly statistics on oil and natural-gas supplies tracked by commodities traders are protected against computer cyber attacks, a spokesman said.

“EIA monitors its critical data releases closely, and we are satisfied that the measures we have taken are performing as intended,” Jonathan Cogan, a spokesman, said today in an e-mailed statement.

The administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, gathers and posts data about oil, natural gas, electricity and renewable energy that is of interest to traders. The administration “will block robots” that attempt to download or access survey information in an excessive manner, according to the agency’s website.

The agency is having to shield its data from market participants who attempt to gain access and prevent other users from getting the information as quickly, business news channel CNBC reported yesterday. The administration has blocked some computer Internet-protocol addresses, CNBC said.

The EIA didn’t comment about whether it had been the subject of a cyber attack or had moved to block specific Internet addresses. The agency has “taken responsible and appropriate measures to protect the integrity of its data releases,” Cogan said.

Agency Posts Data

The energy agency posts data on its government website at a specific time, and media organizations, including Bloomberg, and traders use devices including robots to download that information.

Federal agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture release information that might influence market trading to the media in so-called lockups. Reporters, barred from contacting their offices prior to the release, review embargoed reports, prepare stories and publish when communications lines are opened by the agencies.

“There have been no early releases of BLS data, not from lockup nor from any other source,” said Gary Steinberg, spokesperson for the bureau in Washington. He said the agency is responsible for the data while the Department of Labor handles the lockup room where the data is released to journalists.

USDA security officials said they are unaware of any attempt to hack into the agency’s computers to get data prior to the scheduled release times, said Matthew Herrick, a department spokesman. USDA reports, including monthly estimates of domestic and global crop production and inventories, are closely watched by commodity traders and agricultural analysts.

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