Fed law enforcement warns Russian hackers could target critical infrastructure in Wyoming

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Federal law enforcement officials warn that Russian hackers are targeting refineries, pipelines, power grids and other critical energy infrastructure in the United States, including in Wyoming.

However, historically, the weather has posed a greater threat to Wyoming’s energy infrastructure than hackers, records show.

In late March, the Department of Energy and other federal agencies issued a joint cybersecurity warning (CSA) regarding Russian state-sponsored cyberattacks against the energy sector in the United States and elsewhere.

The warning follows an investigation by the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Department of Energy (DOE) which identified several targeted attacks on energy infrastructure between 2011 and 2018.

Pipelines have always been a target for hackers, according to Ryan McConnaughey, director of communications for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW), who pointed to 2021 ransomware on the Texas-based Colonial Pipeline that was linked to a cybercrime ring linked to Russia.

So far, to McConnaughey’s knowledge, Wyoming’s energy sector has not been hit by Russian or other hackers.

“Individual energy companies and the industry as a whole and their partners are working with CISA and DOE to look ahead to try to mitigate risk,” he said.

The warning of heightened concerns from the federal government comes as no surprise, he noted, adding that the industry has people working full-time on cybersecurity to prevent such attacks and that companies regularly work together. to share information about potential threats.

Historically, records show that the greatest threat to Wyoming’s energy sector has been thunderstorms and lightning.

Between 2009 and 2019, thunderstorms and lightning accounted for $7 million in overall real estate losses each year, according to an energy sector risk profile prepared by the DOE. During this time, the state has had eight major disaster declarations.

The second biggest hazard was flooding, with 19 worth $3 million in damage each year over the same period.

The third biggest cause of infrastructure damage was forest fires. The federal government reported that between 2009 and 2019, the state saw five declarations of fire management assistance. Fire damage to infrastructure is estimated at $2 million per year.

Potential targets

In terms of energy infrastructure, Wyoming has 27 electric utilities, 28 natural gas processing facilities and two liquefied natural gas plants with storage of 6,051 barrels, according to the report.

Additionally, in 2018, there were 6,838 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines and 5,429 miles of natural gas distribution pipelines crossing the state.

Between 1984 and 2019, the report said the greatest disruption to the state’s natural gas distribution system came from unknown events and outside forces while gas was being shipped through pipelines.

In addition to gas lines, in 2018 Wyoming had 4,257 miles of crude oil pipelines and an additional 1,379 miles of refined products pipelines.

The report does not mention any cyberattacks on any of the state’s energy infrastructure.

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