What is Colonial Pipeline?
Colonial Pipeline is the largest pipeline system in the United States for refined oil products. These include gasoline, fuel, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil, and more. It is a foundation for meeting energy needs over 5500 miles from New York and Texas. It provides around 45% of the fuel on the East Coast, indicating its magnitude of importance.
The cyberattack was carried out by a criminal cyber group called DarkSide, and forced Colonial Pipeline to shut down operations temporarily, which had huge impacts on the fuel supply of the east side of the country. Ransomware attacks render a system’s operations helpless and it becomes inoperable without paying a ransom in order to release the data.
Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technologies, told reporters at the White House, “Typically that’s a private sector decision … We recognize that victims of cyberattacks often face a very difficult situation and they have to just balance often the cost-benefit when they have no choice with regards to paying a ransom. Colonial [Pipeline] is a private company and we’ll defer information regarding their decision on paying a ransom to them.” Additionally, she stated that the FBI has warned ransomware victims that paying the ransom could encourage further malicious activity.
DarkSide also released a statement, saying “We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives … Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.” However, President Biden is still checking evidence of the actor’s ransomware being located in Russia and wants to discuss the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
From DarkSide’s statement, the silver lining is that their main goal was not to cause problems in the oil pipeline but rather monetary gain.