Story at a glance

  • The Department of Justice issued new regulations for owners of oil pipelines to improve software security.
  • The Colonial Pipeline was the target of ransomware in May, resulting in supply shortages and price spikes.
  • Other major industries reported similar cyberattacks in the weeks that followed.

In the aftermath of the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline that caused major shortages and price spikes in gasoline along the populous East Coast, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued new requirements pipeline owners need to adopt to prevent future attacks from occurring.

TSA officials said this security directive hinges on the public and private sectors working in tandem to install effective cybersecurity products into oil and gas pipeline operating systems to fight off any hacking attempts. 

“The lives and livelihoods of the American people depend on our collective ability to protect our Nation’s critical infrastructure from evolving threats,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Through this Security Directive, DHS can better ensure the pipeline sector takes the steps necessary to safeguard their operations from rising cyber threats, and better protect our national and economic security.”

This order echoes President Biden’s May executive order on improving national security through contracts between the federal government and cybersecurity software companies.

With the TSA’s fresh recommendation, pipeline owners and operators will be required to implement “specific” cybersecurity measures that prevent hackers from installing ransomware devices into critical operating software. 

Pipeline operators must also develop recovery plans in the event of an attack and conduct a cybersecurity software architecture design review to ensure the system has a robust defense. 

This follows the first May security directive issued by the TSA that prefaced the firm regulations in the new requirements. Per the May order, pipeline owners were required to improve incident reporting to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), designate a cybersecurity coordinator on premises, and review mitigation techniques. 

The Colonial Pipeline cyberattack was one of the high-profile ransomware incidents that occurred in the Spring of 2020. McDonald’s and a ferry company in Martha’s Vineyard were also subject to cyber assaults that handicapped business operations. 

Ultimately, Colonial Pipeline officials were forced to pay about $5 million to hacker group DarkSide just one day after the attack due to the severity of the supply chain shutdown. Later, U.S. law enforcement officials recovered millions paid in cryptocurrency following the attack.   

Published on Jul 20, 2021