Colonial Pipeline shows potential for greater disasters.

On May 7th, Russian based hackers called Darkside hacked the Colonial Pipeline. This 5,500-mile-long gas and oil line that cuts goes from Texas to New York was among the most vital cogs for the Southeast and the panic buying shows how much damage it can cause it if it comes offline for even 5 days.

The hack that brought down the pipeline is an example of a ransomware attack. Hackers were able to gain access to their servers via phishing and gain control of what was revealed to be a vital artery to the East Coast of the United States, especially the Southeast.. Colonial, as a precaution shut down the entire pipeline to isolate and remove the hacker’s damage and to negotiate the ransom, which came out to $4.4 Million. [1]In the five days it was down, it caused gas shortages across the Southeast and calls for investments into the infrastructure security. Though the group behind it, Darkside, apologized and vowed to officially disband, hackers will just go underground and reemerge as a new group down the line.

The Colonial Pipeline hack revealed how vulnerable our infrastructure is to outside malicious actors. It wasn’t the first time this year a vital infrastructure was hit by outside hackers. In a water treatment plant outside of Tampa, hackers were able to backdoor access through remote logins, the ability to adjust the chemicals in the water, creating a potentially toxic water source. Fortunately for the plant, they were caught in time, but it demonstrates how vulnerable such an important infrastructure can be. [2]

Recent hacks against vital arteries in everyday life has shown how vulnerable we are to a wide scale cyber breach. Most victims aren’t as valuable as an oil pipeline but everyday companies, the so called low hanging fruit. Companies must be constantly vigilant and learn to spot potential breaches.

 

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/19/politics/colonial-pipeline-ransom/index.html

[2] https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/8/22273170/hackers-water-treatment-facility-florida-hacked-chemical-levels-changed

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