Critical Pipeline Network Shut Down By Hackers

A critical oil pipeline  which supplies 45 percent of the east coast fuel supply has shut-down all pipeline operations after being hacked. Colonial Pipeline has said that it was the victim of “a cybersecurity attack.... In response, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT system."

Colonial’s network supplies fuel from US refiners on the Gulf Coast to the populous eastern and southern United States. The company transports 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined products through 8,850km (5,500 miles) of pipelines.

This attack appears to have compromised systems that control pipeline infrastructure indicates that either the attack was extremely sophisticated or the systems were not well secured. “This pipeline shutdown sends the message that core elements of our national infrastructure continue to be vulnerable to cyber attack,” Prof. Mike Chapple, security expert and former computer scientist with the US National Security Agency told the Reuters news agency.

In its statement, the company said it had hired a private security firm to investigate the hack and contacted law enforcement and US federal authorities. “At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation. This process is already underway,” it said.

The US Has Suffered Two Major Cyber Security Breaches.

  • The disastrous SolarWinds hack has compromised thousands of US government and private-sector computer networks and was officially blamed on Russia;
  • A widespread cyber attack focused on Microsoft email servers is believed to have affected at least 30,000 US organisations including local governments and was attributed to an aggressive Chinese cyber-espionage campaign.

Both these attacks appeared to be aimed at stealing emails and data but they also create effective ways that can be used to attack the physical infrastructure, however as more details emerge there are a concerns that this may be an extreme criminal attack to extract ransom.

Update:  The  Colonial Pipeline hack has enterd its third day following a ransomware attack on Friday, forcing it to shut down all pipeline operations, although some parts of the network are resuming reduced operationsIf the  pipeline can be restored by Wednesday, it is understood there will be to no long-term impact of the ransomware attack, however, If the shutdown continues, southern states will be the first to experience higher gasoline prices. 

The FBI has blamed the attack on a Russian criminal group, 'DarkSide', thought to have been responsible for attacks on more than 80 companies across the US and Europe to date. DarkSide claims that they do not attack medical, educational or government targets and that they donate a portion of the money they extort to charity. 

FBI:     ABC:      Bloomberg:     Reuters:       ColPipe:      Al Jazeera:     Wired:       Independent

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