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Colonial pipeline hack raises huge concerns with cybersecurity

06.01.21

Biden signs executive order to strengthen cybersecurity defenses after ransomware attack lead to panic buy for fuel and dark side shutdown colonial for $5million

Colonial pipeline hack raises huge concerns with cybersecurity

June 1, 2021

The Colonial pipeline cyberattack is not just another headline. It is a lesson in the far-reaching impact of an undetected vulnerability. Many of us have become immune to cybersecurity headlines. If the hack doesn't involve stolen personal information, we move on to the next news item. But, we shouldn't. There are lessons to be learned each time a hack is successful. 

The Breach

The attack began on May 6, 2021, when cybercriminals infiltrated Colonial's system, leading to the pipeline's shutdown. The ransomware attack locked Colonial staff out of the system. After stealing data, the hackers also threatened to publish it on the web. The forensic analysis of the attack is ongoing, but the vulnerability may not be new. It could be an existing weakness that was not detected or patched.

The Response

Although the attack did not involve the operational infrastructure, the company shut down operations in an effort to mitigate further disruption. The company eventually paid $4.4 million to regain control of its system. The company resumed distribution on May 8.

The federal government eased restrictions for carriers and drivers transporting fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and other refined petroleum products. The restrictions were only lifted in the regions serviced by Colonial. Lifting the restrictions was intended to reduce possible hoarding.

The Impact

An attack on the country's infrastructure poses a threat to everyone. Because of the attack and Colonial's response, the gas supply chain was disrupted, causing widespread panic and hoarding. People waited in line for hours at gas stations, trying to fill up before gas became unavailable and prices skyrocketed. For many along the pipeline, it was chaos.

Colonial is still coping with the attack. Although the company has regained control, it still has to verify that the system has been fully restored. Once that is complete, they have the arduous task of identifying and remedying the vulnerability that led to the attack. This effort may require outside resources and will certainly involve several federal agencies.

The biggest hurdle for the company is dealing with the aftermath of the attack. According to IBM's 2020 report, businesses have to address the following after experiencing a breach:

  • Ongoing business disruption
  • Revenue loss from system downtime
  • Customer loss and acquisition
  • Loss of reputation and trust

Although Colonial will struggle to regain its position in the industry, other businesses will be looking at alternative or backup supply chains. Colonial was not the only company that experienced revenue loss.

The federal government continues to emphasize the importance of improving America's cyber defenses; however, it will take a concentrated effort from both the public and private sectors to ensure the country's infrastructure is secure.

The Solution

The best way to defend against a cyber attack is to proactively assess an organization's infrastructure. IBM's 2020 report found that companies took over 200 days to detect and contain a breach. That's almost seven months. How much damage could criminals do to a physical office space in seven months?

Vulnerability testing is one way to check for weaknesses. Using automated tools, businesses can check their networks for known vulnerabilities and identify methods to strengthen their infrastructure. A 24/7 vulnerability monitoring service can help identify areas of potential compromise.

While the federal government pursues solutions to harden America's cybersecurity, organizations need to strengthen their infrastructures as well. In the world of cybercrime, an institution is only as strong as its weakest link. For more information on how to secure your business, contact Synergy Infosec to learn about our consulting services. Our dashboard consolidates cybersecurity tools and scanners into a single point of access, making it easier to monitor what is happening on your network.


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