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Showing posts with label Colonial Pipeline. Show all posts

Pipeline Shutdown Shows Need for Tougher Cybersecurity Laws

 

The six-day shutdown of a key 5,550-mile fuel pipeline earlier this month as a result of a malware attack proved a case study of everything that can go wrong when the private sector, which regulates critical sections of American infrastructure, fails to prioritize cybersecurity and the government lacks the resources to properly deter cyberattacks and manage the fallout. 

Colonial Pipeline's response to a recent hacker attack was fast and comprehensive. The private company turned off the supply of nearly half of the East Coast's oil, diesel, and jet fuel, which had never been done before. Long lines formed at gas stations from Washington, D.C., to Florida as a result of a combination of fuel shortages and panic buying. Stopovers were added to US air travel routes to enable planes to refuel in central and northern states. 

Colonial Pipeline was the victim of a ransomware attack by a group of Eastern European cyber bandits known as DarkSide, which extorted $4.4 million from the company as it rushed to reclaim control of its information management infrastructure and ensure the hackers had not breached the pipeline's operating system. The pipeline was eventually brought back online, and DarkSide discontinued operations However, the most serious harm had already been done: The incident demonstrated how simple it was to put a large portion of American infrastructure to a halt with a cyberattack that was as sophisticated as a pickpocketing. 

President Biden responded by signing an executive order that would provide incentives for IT service providers to share data share about cybersecurity vulnerabilities and breaches with the government. The order also establishes a cybersecurity safety review board with jurisdiction similar to the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates airline and railroad safety accidents and makes security recommendations. 

However, Congress should impose mandatory reporting regulations requiring private sector companies in charge of sections of the nation's vital infrastructure to report possible and actual violations so that the government and industry can respond more quickly to minimize the consequences. A bill like this has been discussed in Congress for more than a decade, but it has yet to become law. 

Senator Angus King, who is co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, established by Congress to bolster US cybersecurity protections, stated in an interview, “We need to build a structure that facilitates and supports open communication and trust, between this critically important infrastructure and the government in order for the government to be able to help.” 

Because of the vast number of phishing or other low-level security breach attempts they face, private sector companies are sometimes unable to disclose sensitive details regarding cybersecurity vulnerabilities or risks for fear of civil liability. The carrots to the mandatory reporting requirement's stick, according to King, will be liability protections and carefully restricting and identifying what counts as reportable accidents. 

A lot needs to be done to ensure the cybersecurity of our country's vital infrastructure which includes enforcing more structured federal oversight in place of the current multi-agency approach, which can be cumbersome, redundant, and slow; holding Russia responsible not just for its own cyber espionage but also for sheltering other cyber attackers within its borders; and tightening the federal government's own cybersecurity, which was discovered to be vulnerable last year by the SolarWinds hack.

FBI – CISA Published a Joint Advisory as Colonial Pipeline Suffers a Catastrophic Ransomware Attack

 

Following a catastrophic ransomware assault on a Colonial Pipeline, the FBI and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) published a joint advisory. The notice, issued on Tuesday 11th May, contains information on DarkSide, malware operators running a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) network. 

DarkSide is in charge of the latest Colonial Pipeline cyber assault. Past Friday - 7th May, the fuel giant has said that a Cyberattack had obliged the company, which was found to be an intrusion of DarkSide affiliates, to stop pipeline activities and to pull the IT systems offline. 

Cybercriminal gangs use DarkSide for data encryption and to gain entry to a victim's server. These groups attempt to disclose the information if the victim is not paying the ransom. DarkSide leverage groups have recently targeted organizations, including production, legal, insurance, healthcare, and energy, through various sectors of CI. 

Colonial pipeline is yet to be recovered, and the FBI is engaged with them as a key infrastructure supplier – one of which provides 45% of the fuel of the East Coast and typically provides up to 100 million gallons of fuel per day. 

"Cybercriminal groups use DarkSide to gain access to a victim's network to encrypt and exfiltrate data," the alert says. "These groups then threaten to expose data if the victim does not pay the ransom. Groups leveraging DarkSide have recently been targeting organizations across various CI sectors including manufacturing, legal, insurance, healthcare, and energy." 

The ransomware from DarkSide is available to RaaS clients. This cybercriminal template has become prominent because only a core team needs to create malware that can be transmitted to other people. 

RaaS can also be offered on a subscription basis as a ransomware partner, and/or the developers may earn cuts in income when a ransom is paid. In exchange, developers continue to enhance their 'product' malware. 

Furthermore the FBI - CISA advisory also provides tips and best practices to avoid or mitigate ransomware threats. 

The most important defense act against ransomware is prevention. It is crucial to follow good practices to defend against attacks by ransomware, that can be damaging to a person or an organization. 

"CISA and FBI urge CI [critical infrastructure] asset owners and operators to adopt a heightened state of awareness and implement recommendations [...] including implementing robust network segmentation between IT and OT networks; regularly testing manual controls; and ensuring that backups are implemented, regularly tested, and isolated from network connections," the agencies say. "These mitigations will help CI owners and operators improve their entity's functional resilience by reducing their vulnerability to ransomware and the risk of severe business degradation if impacted by ransomware."

Colonial Hackers Stole Data on Thursday Ahead of Shutdown

 

The hackers who caused Colonial Pipeline to shut down the biggest US petrol pipeline last Friday began their blitz against the company a day earlier, stealing a large amount of data before locking computers with ransomware and demanding payment, as per the sources.

According to the two reports, the intruders, who are members of the DarkSide cybercrime group, took nearly 100 gigabytes of data from the Alpharetta, Georgia-based company's network in just two hours on Thursday.

The step was part of a double-extortion scheme that has become a trademark of the group. According to the reports, Colonial was told that the stolen data will be released to the Internet, although information encrypted by the hackers on machines within the network will stay locked until it paid a ransom. The company didn't immediately respond to requests to comment on the investigation. It said earlier that it "proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems". 

Colonial's decision on Friday to shut down the main pipeline that supplies the US East Coast with gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, without specifying when it would reopen, indicates a risky new escalation in the battle against ransomware, which President Joe Biden's administration identified as a priority. 

It's unclear how much the attackers requested or whether Colonial has agreed to pay. In cryptocurrency, ransomware demands can vary from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars. Many businesses compensate, with the help of their insurers. 

According to the Associated Press, AXA, one of ’s leading insurance firms, announced last week that it will break the trend and stop offering schemes in France that reimburse customers for payments made to ransomware hackers. In recent years, cyberattacks have disrupted the operations of other energy assets in the US. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security announced that an unnamed natural gas compressor facility was shut down for two days due to an attack. 

The theft of Colonial's records, combined with the installation of ransomware on the company's machines, demonstrates the power that hackers frequently hold over their victims in such situations. The investigation is being assisted by FireEye Inc's Mandiant digital forensics division, according to the company. 

Mr. Biden was briefed on the incident on Saturday morning, according to the White House.

Ransomware Attack Shuts Down Top U.S. Fuel Pipeline Network

 

The operator of a major gasoline pipeline in the U.S. shut down operations late Friday following a ransomware attack pipeline system that transports fuel across the East Coast. The attack is unlikely to affect gasoline supply and prices unless it leads to a prolonged shutdown of the pipeline, experts said. 

Colonial Pipeline did not say what was demanded or who made the demand. Ransomware attacks are typically carried out by criminal hackers who seize data and demand a large payment in order to release it.

The company is the main source of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel for the East Coast with a capacity of about 2.5 million barrels a day on its system from Houston as far as North Carolina, and another 900,000 barrels a day to New York. It presents a new challenge for an administration still dealing with its response to major hacks from months ago, including a massive breach of government agencies and corporations for which the U.S. sanctioned Russia last month.

President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident on Saturday morning, a White House spokesperson said and added that the federal government is working with the company to assess the implications of the attack, restore operations and avoid disruptions to the supply. The government is planning for various scenarios and working with state and local authorities on measures to mitigate any potential supply issues. 

“We’ve seen ransomware start hitting soft targets like hospitals and municipalities, where losing access has real-world consequences and makes victims more likely to pay. We are talking about the risk of injury or death, not just losing your email,” said Ulf Lindqvist, a director at SRI International who specializes in threats to industrial systems.

After the shutdown was first reported on Friday, gasoline and diesel futures edged slightly higher on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline gained 0.6% while diesel futures rose 1.1%, both outpacing gains in crude oil. Gulf Coast cash prices for gasoline and diesel edged lower on prospects that supplies could accumulate in the region.

Colonial previously shut down its gasoline and distillate lines during Hurricane Harvey, which hit the Gulf Coast in 2017. That contributed to tight supplies and gasoline price rises in the United States after the hurricane forced many Gulf refineries to shut down.