Colonial Pipeline, the United States’ largest purveyor of refined fuel, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, recently had a bad day. Late last Friday, the company’s information technology systems fell victim to ransomware. The company quickly shut down its operations as a precautionary measure to contain the attack and prevent long-term damage to its physical systems. As of Tuesday afternoon, the pipeline was still largely offline, though Colonial hopes to restore operations by the end of the week.
The attack on Colonial Pipeline is one data point in an overall trend of increased attacks from ransomware, malicious software that prevents victims from accessing their data and requires a ransom payment in order to restore their systems. The consequences can range from the economically costly to the downright dire: Businesses get locked out of their computer systems for several hours or days at a time, halting operations, disrupting supply chains and significantly harming consumer trust.
In 2020 alone, nearly 2,400 state and local governments, health care facilities and schools were victims of ransomware attacks. Additionally, the victims of these attacks paid a total of $350 million in ransom, marking a 300-plus-percent increase from the previous year.
And ransomware is just one kind of cyberthreat posed to infrastructure — one of the country’s most prevalent national security risks and one that should be at the top of priority lists for infrastructure needs. Given the severity of the danger, it was disappointing to see that the Biden administration’s current infrastructure plan falls woefully short in terms of actually securing the infrastructure it proposes to build, a failing that has raised eyebrows.
The Colonial Pipeline attack “is a play that will be run again, and we’re not adequately prepared” warned Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. “If Congress is serious about an infrastructure package, at front and center should be the hardening of these critical sectors — rather than progressive wish lists masquerading as infrastructure.”
America’s critical infrastructure as traditionally defined and historically…