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Will Ransomware Attack Lead to Fuel Shortages in the US?

Concerns are growing about the impact of a ransomware attack on one of the major oil pipeline networks in the US.  The Colonial Pipeline, which carries 100 million gallons of refined oil products a day from Houston as far North as New York, has been closed since Friday following a ransomware attack.

Emergency legislation has been passed to increase the capacity to transport fuel by road but this will not make up for the shortfall.  The pipeline transports nearly half of the diesel, petrol and aviation fuel used on the East Coast; and experts predict that fuels shortages will start to bite by tomorrow if services are not restored.

It is reported that the cyber-criminal gang, DarkSide, infiltrated Colonial’s network on Thursday and took almost 100GB of data hostage.  As well as encrypting the data, DarkSide are apparently threatening to release data on the internet if their ransom is not paid.

This is part of a worrying escalation in the incidence of ransomware attacks.  More specifically though, it has been suggested that this attack was made possible by the increased use of remote access to pipeline control systems during the pandemic.  This is a timely reminder that the benefits of more flexible ways of working, introduced in response to Covid-19, must be carefully weighed up against the risks that they present.