Vital U.S. Fuel Pipeline Shut Down After Cyber Attack

A vital fuel pipeline in the U.S. has been shut down after a cyber attack on its operator, Colonial Pipeline. 

The company has confirmed that it shut down its fuel pipeline after a cyber attack, which has seen an 8850km stretch of infrastructure taken offline after cybercriminals were able to access its computer network. 

It’s being reported that cyber criminals launched a ransomware attack against the pipeline operator, with the shutdown coming at the expense of more than 2.5 million barrels of fuel each day. 

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This is a particularly important event, considering that more than 45% of the fuel transported on America’s east coast filters through Colonial’s Pipeline, which supplies 14 states with diesel, petroleum and jet fuel. 

Its operator says that nearly 400-million litres of fuel pass through the pipeline each day, signifying the scale and severity of the data breach causing the operator to shut down the pipeline in the aftermath of the cyber attack. 

The company has issued a statement saying that “Colonial Pipeline is taking steps to understand and resolve this issue. At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation.”

It says that the company “proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems,” and that a third-party cybersecurity firm has launched an investigation.   

“This process is already under way, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimise disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline.” 

Vital U.S. Fuel Pipeline Shut Down After Cyber Attack

The U.S. Department of Energy has said that the agency is “monitoring any potential impacts” or supply chain disruptions as a result of the pipeline being taken offline, while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has said that it is in “communication with other federal agencies, and we are working closely with them to monitor developments.” 

Bloomberg is writing that “hacking threats to critical infrastructure have been growing, prompting the White House to respond last month with a plan to try and increase the security of utilities and their suppliers. Pipelines are a specific concern because they play a central role in so many parts of the U.S. economy.”

Professor Mike Chapple from the University of Notre Dame has told Retuers that “this pipeline shutdown sends the message that core elements of our national infrastructure continue to be vulnerable to cyberattack. Securing our energy infrastructure is a national security issue that involves several different federal agencies and required centralized leadership.” 

He continued to explain that “last year, Congress authorized the creation of a national cybersecurity director within the White House, but his position remains unfilled by the Biden administration. In the wake of attacks like Colonial Pipeline and Solar Winds, it is clear that filling the role needs to be a higher priority.” 

This was echoed by the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity who said that “this attack is unusual for the U.S. But, the bottom line is that attacks targeting operational technology – the industrial control systems on the production line or plant floor – are becoming more frequent.” 

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