May 11, 2021

Colonial Pipeline

“The biggest U.S. gasoline pipeline will not resume full operations for several more days due to a ransomware cyberattack… The FBI attributed the cyberattack to DarkSide, a group believed to be based in Russia or Eastern Europe.” Reuters

On Monday, President Joe Biden stated, “So far, there is no evidence based on — from our intelligence people that Russia is involved. Although there is evidence that the actors — ransomware — is in Russia. They have some responsibility to deal with this.” White House

Both sides worry about the ongoing risk of cyberattacks:

“The fact that an apparent group of cyber pirates -- a secret criminal nerd syndicate -- can take down the aorta of fuel for the East Coast should be sending shockwaves through the country. We've all read this year about the pandemic threatening supply chains and about climate change causing more freak weather that threatens power grids. Meanwhile, hackers have also gotten more brazen, locking companies key to the US infrastructure…

“This week it's Colonial Pipeline. But it's been hospital systems. Cities. Schools. Everything from the city of Atlanta to the DC Police Department has been hit by ransomware. And while they can't be tied in all or even most cases to foreign governments, that should not distract us from the fact that the US appears to be under attack.”
Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

“In 2007, the former Soviet republic of Estonia became the first country to be the target of a national cyber attack with Russia as the perpetrator. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, cyberattacks were part of Vladimir Putin’s arsenal. The attacks on Ukraine included taking control of electrical grids and shutting them down to cause blackouts…

“Today an aggressor would not have to launch a nuclear EMP attack to switch off America’s electricity. It would only require a coordinated attack on the electrical grids that supply us with power. This is a threat that should be taken very seriously, especially since the Russians have a history of testing this sort of warfare.”
David Thornton, Racket News

“These kinds of attacks will only become more frequent. Much of the US’s fractured infrastructure system has weak or nonexistent protection. In February, a hacker accessed the controls of the Oldsmar water plant in Florida and turned up the sodium hydroxide, a caustic chemical that could have harmed people. The attack was noticed and quickly fixed, but it turned out that the hacker had entered, essentially, an unlocked back door into the system that had been open for months. Even worse, the computers were using the obsolete and insecure Windows 7…

“Software updates, system upgrades, cybersecurity tools and good security practices are needed at every level of infrastructure, from local water plants to cross-country oil pipelines. Much of this infrastructure is in state, local or private hands. But protecting it is a matter of National Security.”
Arieh Kovler, Spectator USA

“Companies have their reasons for going mum when hacked, of course. They’re worried about reputational damage. If publicly traded, they also fear possible negligence lawsuits from investors (Colonial is privately held). But in an era in which nation-states and roving freelancers alike have turned rival governments, corporations, schools and universities, hospitals, research labs, fire and police departments, and other institutions into digital piñatas, hunkering down only perpetuates the problem

“During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in February about the massive SolarWinds Inc. burglary orchestrated by Russian operatives, Microsoft Corp.’s president, Brad Smith, and other corporate insiders said one of their biggest frustrations in battling cyberattacks is that information is scattered among private and public stakeholders who don’t freely share it with one another. All of the bad reasons for holding onto information about a cyberattack — embarrassment, competitiveness, incompetence — only make it that much harder to prepare for and surmount the next one… At some point, the wake-up calls will morph into unmanageable disasters.”
Timothy L. O’Brien, Bloomberg

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