Lessons Learned
The Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack

DarkSide locked down the pipeline with ransomware, shutting down the flow of gas throughout the Eastern Seaboard and demanding that Colonial Pipeline pay a ransom in order to get its systems unlocked and gas flowing again.

The Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack: What You Need to Know

The Colonial Pipeline delivers approximately 45% of the fuel used along the Eastern Seaboard every day. Unfortunately, its weakened cybersecurity system left it vulnerable to hackers--and DarkSide, a gang of criminal hackers, took advantage of it.

DarkSide locked down the pipeline with ransomware, shutting down the flow of gas throughout the Eastern Seaboard and demanding that Colonial Pipeline pay a ransom in order to get its systems unlocked and gas flowing again. Ultimately, the company paid the ransom.

The Consequences of the Colonial Pipeline Attack

The Colonial Pipeline attack had both immediate and long-term consequences. As knowledge about the attack hit the news and customers realized that the flow of gas was shut down, many consumers rushed to the pumps to buy gas as soon as possible. Despite warnings not to panic buy, many customers feared the possibility that they would run out of gas.

With the system shut down, gas shortages occurred quickly as lines at the pumps spread around the block.

Gas prices skyrocketed.

While the Colonial Pipeline was restored within a few days and most people were able to easily get the gas they needed, the impact of the attack will be felt far beyond those initial days. Gas prices rose immediately, and they seem unlikely to go all the way back to their earlier levels.

More importantly, however, the Colonial Pipeline attack exposed just how vulnerable many elements of society are--and how reliant they are on the cybersecurity measures that help protect them against attacks like this one.

What Can Businesses Big and Small Learn from the Colonial Pipeline Attack?

The Colonial Pipeline was hit by a ransomware attack. Ransomware is a piece of malware that scrambles and encodes data within a system. It can prevent victims from accessing vitally necessary data and even the programs and platforms necessary to keep their business running smoothly each day. Ransomware attacks can freeze entire systems, especially those without adequate backup plans--and until the victim gets the encryption key, usually by paying the ransom, little can be done to mitigate those effects.

Ransomware has become a serious problem across the nation. While the Colonial Pipeline attack was widely publicized, due in part to the fact that it impacted so many people, other businesses and organizations have felt the sting of increased cyberattacks over the past year. Hospitals, schools, state and local government organizations, and even police departments have been hit with ransomware attacks. Many businesses have no idea what to do next. President Biden has even deemed ransomware attacks a national security threat--and the Biden administration is taking steps to provide vital additional guidance that will help protect government institutions against future threats.

What can your business--whether large or small--learn from the Colonial Pipeline attack? There are several key details to keep in mind as you consider your cybersecurity plans and responses.

1. Simple compliance is no longer enough.

Compliance standards across many industries, from PCIS compliance for payment systems to HIPAA compliance in healthcare organizations, is no longer enough to offer the high degree of protection most businesses now need. Cyber threats grow exponentially, especially in times of crisis like the past year. Cybersecurity protections grow quickly, as well--but it takes much longer for industries and institutions to reach a point where those additional protections become standardized. Compliance standards may lag years behind the latest best practices in the industry, especially if no one takes fast action to help protect them.

For your business, that means that simple compliance is not enough to help ensure your safety and protection. You need to work with an IT company that offers robust security solutions: not just the solutions needed to keep your business in compliance, but the more robust solutions necessary to offer a higher degree of protection.

2. Data backups are critical to your organization.

Your business runs on data. Your technology, from AI technology to the vital platforms and programs your business uses every day, is essential to your overall functionality.

You cannot afford to lose that data. Unfortunately, many businesses do not have an adequate data backup system. Still others never test it, which means they may have no idea if that system will be effective in an emergency or not. Regular testing is the only way to find out for sure if you have the right tools on hand to protect your business in an emergency.

With an effective data backup system, you can keep your business running even in the event of a ransomware attack like the one on the Colonial Pipeline. How much data you lose and how much that attack hamstrings your business may be based primarily on the effectiveness and efficiency of those data backups.

3. A disaster response plan is essential.

Colonial Pipeline was able to get its systems back up and running within a matter of days after the incident. A longer delay could have led to more severe problems: greater gas shortages, challenges in supply chains across the Eastern Seaboard, and devastating expenses for the company as a whole.

A disaster response plan is critical to maintaining your continued functionality in the midst of an attack or getting your business up and running again as soon as possible. You need to know who needs to be notified of a disaster, what steps you need to take, and how to contain the problem as much as possible. A robust disaster response plan can even keep your business functioning so smoothly that your customers or the people dependent on you to maintain their supply chain never realize the full extent of the problem. Without those tools, on the other hand, your business could end up struggling immensely--and you may lose more money and more customers as a result.

Do you have a robust disaster response plan, effective cybersecurity, and the tools that you need to protect your business in the event of a disaster? Contact us today to learn more about our cybersecurity solutions and how we can help protect your business.

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