Because it is privately owned, colonialism is under less pressure than disclosing details of a company that is traded publicly. But as a defender of a key part of the country’s internet infrastructure, the quality of its security and its transparency about how it responds to attack is under scrutiny.
Despite the colonial insistence that those familiar with the investigation were aware of Friday’s attack, the events seem to have unfolded over several days. It has hired Fire I, the private cyber security company that responded Sony Pictures Entertainment Hacking, Energy facility violations in the Middle East and several incidents involving the federal government.
Dropping pipeline operations to protect against a wider, more damaging intrusion is the most consistent practice. But in this case, it left open the question of whether the attackers now have the ability to turn the pipes directly on or off or bring about activities that could cause an accident.
A second such incident targeting a pipeline operator was a ransomware attack. Last year, the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Protection Agency announced a ransomware attack on a natural gas extraction facility owned by a pipeline operator. It discontinued the facility for two days, but the company never released the company name.
The rise of automated attack tools and the amount of redemption in cryptocurrencies make it harder to find criminals, which has led to an increase in such attacks, say cyber security experts.
“We have seen ransomware begin to hit soft targets such as hospitals and municipalities where loss of access has real-world consequences and victims are more likely to pay more,” said Ulf Lindquist, director of SRI International, which specializes in threats to industrial organizations. “We’re talking about the risk of injury or death, without losing your email.”
The Colonial Pipeline, located in Alberta, Co., is owned by several American and foreign companies and investment companies, including Coach Industries and Royal Dutch Shell. The pipeline connects Houston and New York Port and New Jersey and supplies jet fuel to major airports, including Atlanta and the Washington, DC area.