The Colonial Pipeline Hack: A New Era of Cyberwar

Holding tanks at Colonial Pipeline’s Linden Junction Tank Farm in Woodbridge, N.J. (Colonial Pipeline/Handout via Reuters)

On the menu today: a deep dive into what appears to be a frightening new era of cyberwarfare and ransomware — because the Colonial Pipeline hack and extortion was only the highest-profile example this week; this kind of crime and terrorism is taking off like a rocket.

Suddenly, Ransomware Is Everywhere

Apparently, ransomware attacks are like the latest TikTok dance: rapidly growing in popularity and not easily understood by anyone over the age of 30. You’ve heard about the Colonial Pipeline hack. But you probably didn’t hear that Ireland’s health service shut down its computer systems after being hit with a ransomware attack. DarkSide hit Toshiba Corporation and compromised more than 740 gigabytes of information including passports and other personal information. The Washington, D.C., police just suffered the biggest hack of a police force ever, exposing “hundreds of police officer disciplinary files and intelligence reports that include feeds from other agencies, including the FBI and Secret Service.” The city government of Gary, Ind., has to restore and rebuild all of its servers after they were attacked.

And that’s just in the past 24 hours or so.

One of the oddities of the Die Hard movie series is that none of the movies started out with a script for a Die Hard movie; they were all adaptations of scripts for previously written different novels and other movies, and altered to fit the John McClane character.

The fourth movie, Live Free or Die Hard, actually started not as a novel or a screenplay, but as a nonfiction article in Wired magazine. Written in 1997 and titled “A Farewell to Arms,” it laid out the United States’ vulnerability to cyberattacks on its critical infrastructure.

The closing paragraphs of that Wired article warn about the emerging era of information warfare, which “includes electronic warfare, tactical deception, strategic deterrence, propaganda warfare, psychological warfare, network warfare, and structural sabotage”:

When the threat everyone’s talking about is from…