House passes bill to bolster state plans to ward off infrastructure attacks

Courtesy Colonial Pipeline

The House passed bipartisan legislation on Tuesday to provide federal guidance and resources to states vulnerable to attacks on their infrastructure following the ransomware cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline last month.

Lawmakers of both parties voted to pass the bill overwhelmingly, 398-21. The opposition was also bipartisan, with 12 Democrats and nine Republicans voting against it.

The legislation would reauthorize the Energy Department’s State Energy Program — which provides assistance for states’ efforts to enhance energy security — and establish requirements for states’ energy security plans.

Those requirements would include addressing all kinds of fuels, identifying potential cyber or physical hazards to each energy sector, and providing risk assessments of energy infrastructure and cross-sector interdependencies.

“Recent events like the Colonial Pipeline cyber attack have highlighted the importance of investing in the physical and cyber security of our energy systems,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said during floor debate.

The ransomware attack last month on Colonial Pipeline, which supplies gasoline and fuel to the southeastern U.S., temporarily led to fuel shortages and a spike in gasoline prices.

The Justice Department said earlier this month that it recovered “the majority of the ransom” that Colonial Pipeline paid to the DarkSide network, the group behind the attack.

Colonial Pipeline’s CEO revealed in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he authorized paying the equivalent of $4.4 million in bitcoin in exchange for the keys to decrypt the pipeline’s network.

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