Last Friday, a cyberattack shut down America’s largest energy infrastructure, the Colonial Pipeline System, which supplies nearly half of the gasoline and diesel consumed by the East Coast.
The attack naturally led to a rise in gasoline prices and a race on gas as drivers worried about impending shortages as Colonial Pipeline Co. worked to restart the flow of fuels.
Still, higher prices at the pump and a possible fuel shortage are the smaller problem. It is, after all, temporary and its effect will be transient. But there is a bigger problem, and it concerns the energy infrastructure of the United States: exactly how secure is it?
As the attack suggests, not very. True, experts said early on that the group that carried out the attack was made up of seasoned hackers. Later, a ransomware group called DarkSide took responsibility for the attack, and the FBI also named the group as the culprit.
Here’s what DarkSide said in its statement: âWe are apolitical, we don’t participate in geopolitics, we don’t need to tie ourselves to a defined government and research our motives. Our goal is to make money, not to create problems for society. From today, we are introducing moderation and checking every business our partners want to cost to avoid social consequences in the future. “
The statement clearly seeks to address claims that Russia was behind the attack, but even the White House was careful not to point the finger at Moscow, along with President Biden. saying there was no indication that he was involved in the attack. It deals with the geopolitical motive, but the statement also suggests that DarkSide and their partners won’t stop, even if they didn’t want to cause trouble. And on purpose or not, they’re going to cause problems.
“Colonial may run the risk of confidential shipper (customer) data being disclosed,” says Vicki Knott, Managing Director of CruxOCM, a provider of control room operations services to the oil and gas industry.
âThe information on shipping tolls is public. However, depending on the contract structure Colonial has with its customers, there are likely nuances between customers in terms of the guaranteed volumes to be moved and the prices / movements of the goods. cash volumes. If leaked, it could lead to confidentiality, breach and impact the competitive process between customers – which can further lead to major lawsuits from customers. “
But lawsuits by companies paying Colonial Pipeline Co. to ship their fuel are the least of the problems cyberattacks on energy infrastructure could cause. According to Knott, a major safety or environmental disaster is a much bigger reason to be concerned about such attacks if they targeted the pipeline control system.
The fact that the attack was possible means that critical energy infrastructure is not very well protected against such breaches. And it gets worse: Security experts are talking about a ransomware pandemic.
âHonestly, I think for anyone who follows ransomware closely, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise,â said Philip Reiner, CEO of the Institute for Security and Technology, a non-profit organization. “This is another example of what really is a ransomware pandemic that needs to be addressed at the highest level,” he said. Told The Verge after the colonial pipeline attack.
If it’s a pandemic, then things have to be really serious: if ransomware attacks are so frequent, then it must be a miracle that disasters aren’t more frequent.
“Colonial Pipeline Cyber ââAttack Should Be A Wake Up On Capitol Hill,” Tufts University Professor Told David Blackmon of Forbes. We need to think holistically about security threats to America’s energy infrastructure – and implement smart policies that will reduce security threats across the energy system, âsaid Rockford Weitz, director of the Fletcher Maritime Studies Program.
It should also be a wake-up call on corporate boards, as DarkSide and its likes target corporations, not governments. This wake-up call concerns the overall security of operations and data protection: issues that seem particularly serious in the energy sector.
“The Colonial Pipeline is another example of a ransomware attack on poorly protected corporate data that has affected already exasperated problems in the energy industry,” said Sam Agyemang, co-founder of HaulerHub, a company – intelligent logistics form for shippers and carriers. “As more and more US companies realize that this is a threat that does not go away on its own, updating systems and updating employee data is in the hands of of employees to manage this can significantly reduce the impact of cyber warfare. “
So it seems that America’s energy infrastructure has serious problems to solve. These problems became much more urgent after the Colonial pipeline failure, but that doesn’t mean they will get a quick fix. Security is a tricky business, and hackers usually have a head start, making it even trickier.
According to cybersecurity technology company Cybereason, DarkSide has just released a new version of its ransomware.
By Irina Slav for Oil Octobers
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