Published On: Sun, May 9th, 2021

Cyber Attack Shuts Down Major U.S. Pipeline Colonial Pipeline

It was a ransomware attack.

Colonial Pipeline CNBC screen capture

Major American fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline was forced to shut down its entire system after the company suffered a cyberattack. The company, which transports 45% of the U.S. East Coast fuel supply, acknowledged in a statement that it was the victim of ransomware.

According to Colonial Pipeline, once it learned of the problem it called in the services of a leading, third-party cybersecurity firm, which has launched an investigation into the nature and scope of this incident, which is ongoing. The company said that it has contacted law enforcement and other federal agencies.

“Colonial Pipeline is taking steps to understand and resolve this issue,” read the statement. “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, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline.”

Colonial Pipeline is the largest refined products pipeline in the United States, transporting more than 100 million gallons of fuel daily to meet the energy needs of consumers from Houston, Texas to the New York Harbor. According to NBC News, Colonial’s network supplies fuel from U.S refiners on the Gulf Coast to the disney populated areas in the country’s eastern and southern areas. The company transports 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined products over 5,500 miles of pipelines.

Ransomware works by taking control of a victim’s computer or even the entire systems of a private organization through a type of computer virus. The attackers then extort a fee in exchange for returning control of the computers affected to their owners. Several Israeli companies were recently the victims of such attacks. Israel Aerospace Industries was reportedly breached by the Iranian based Pay2Key ransomware last December.

What happened here sounds like something out of the TV show 24. If you have seen it, then you know that a terrorist attack done by way of hacking into a public utility’s systems is one of the scariest threats to public safety. Imagine someone getting control over a power plant, or many power plants, and shutting down a whole region’s power supply. Now imagine it happening to an entire country or continent.

Now think about your local water supply. Imagine someone disrupting the flow of drinking water or contaminating the supply. Or imagine someone doing any of these things for money made through extortion.

This is why cybersecurity startups are so valuable today. And Startup Nation is filled with them. Hackers are not only motivated by money or politics. They often just like being malicious. So even small companies need to be on their guard and be sure to properly protect their systems.

Everybody uses Wi-Fi today. Wireless is the way to go. Whether in a coffee shop, in an office, or in the privacy of your own home, e mail uses wireless connections. Every time that we use an app on our cell phones, we are using a wireless connection provided through the cell phone company’s connection.

So protecting our communications and data when using a wireless connection is more important than ever. For example, you have probably heard countless news reports about the dangers involved in using a public Wi-Fi connection. There are hackers out there who can hack into poorly protected Wi-Fi hubs and steal any important information like passwords and credit card numbers from people using the service.

You even need to be careful in your own home. Even if you have a short range Wi-Fi setup that does not go beyond your home, there are special devices which can pick up Wi-Fi signals from far away. So this is why the services offered by AirEye is so important.

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