How vulnerable is the US energy infrastructure?

(To Alessandro Rugolo)
10/05/21

This is what Americans are discovering these days. Sure, it's not the first time this has happened, but it's probably the first time a problem of this size has happened.

The Colonial Pipeline company, which is responsible for managing the main US east coast pipeline, had to shut down its systems on Friday 7 May due to a cyber attack on its network. According to investigators it was an attack ransomware

The company announced that it has turned to one of America's leading cybersecurity companies, the FireEye Mandiant to proceed with investigations and manage the difficult phase of restoring services.

Many systems have been shut down to limit the contagion of the ransomware and now the company, together with the FireEye and the State Department of Energy, is committed to restoring services safely. The gravity of the situation and the possible consequences made it necessary to inform President Biden of what happened.

The first investigations suggest the cyber group known as "DarkSide" but still nothing official has been said. Attribution is always complex in the cyber world and is often driven by intelligence and context. It is generally not possible to be sure who is responsible for a cyber attack, unless it is claimed.

There is strong concern about the possible impact on fuel prices at the pump in the event of a prolonged interruption of the service. But that's just what you see immediately, the tip of the iceberg. How much the East Coast system depends on the Colonial Pipeline oil pipeline can only be assessed by looking at what other infrastructures are connected to it. 

For example, Iran Press notes that the pipeline serves some of the largest and busiest airports, including Hartsfield Jackson, Atlanta, the busiest airport in the world for passenger traffic.

The consequences, in the event of a prolonged blockage of the pipeline, could be serious for all the productive infrastructures of the east coast, but could also have political implications on President Biden's campaign in favor of clean energy and climate change.

Last but not least, it appears that around 100GB of company data was stolen during the attack. This could have significant implications and medium-long term impact on the Colonial Pipeline's reputation and future plans, investments, projects and patents. 

To learn more:

Cyber ​​attack shuts down US fuel pipeline 'jugular,' Biden briefed | Reuters 

Colonial pipeline: Cyberattack forces major US fuel pipeline to shut down - CNNPolitics

Cyber ​​Security Experts & Solution Providers | FireEye

Media Statement: Colonial Pipeline System Disruption (colpipe.com)

Cyber ​​attack shuts down US fuel pipeline 'jugular' (iranpress.com)

'Jugular' of the US fuel pipeline system shuts down after cyberattack - POLITICAL

Cyber ​​attack shuts down US fuel pipeline 'jugular,' Biden briefed (globalbankingandfinance.com)

Colonial Hackers Stole Date Thursday Ahead of Shutdown - Bloomberg