Let’s Talk: Ransomware Attacks

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The toilet paper shortage of 2020 turns into the gas shortage of 2021. You may or may not watch the news…but we know you buy gas. Have you noticed anything about gas lately? In particular, the soaring prices over the past month? There is a reason behind all the madness, though. It’s called ransomware attacks. 

Colonial Pipeline is one of the largest oil and gas pipelines in America, fueling more than 100 million gallons of gas to consumers from Houston, TX to New York, NY. In early May, the large Pipeline corporation was hit with a ransomware attack. The attack ceased all operations and took certain systems offline. Colonial Pipeline was stuck between a rock and a hard place. What were they to do, pay the heavy ransom, or gamble with the attackers?

Ransomware is a form of malicious software hackers use to encrypt files on a companies’ (or personal) internal devices. These attackers are always changing, evolving new tactics overtime. As of late, a relatively new cyber-criminal group is emerging from the shadows. Based in Eastern Europe, DarkSide has gained traction from their recent attack: Colonial Pipeline. Ransomware attackers, like DarkSide, seek out anyone. It could happen to you, your company, or a friend’s company and the rippling effects may be tragic. 

The cause of the rising gas prices, the panic in Americans, and some companies’ shut down, is all due to the Colonial Pipeline attack. So what’s their defense? Colonial Pipeline hired a third-party company. The game plan: maintain the security they had left while continuing to provide operational delivery points. This worked…for the most part. Keeping the pipeline safe was the main priority while lessening the effects it had on those reliant on Colonial Pipeline. It took about 6 days of major shutdown until the game plan was ready for action. Unfortunately, by then there was too much pressure and Colonial Pipeline paid a $4.4 million ransom. 

After a week, Colonial Pipeline slowly restarted operations. Because of the drawn out hold on fuel being transported to markets along the east coast, gas prices skyrocketed. Some Americans went on with their day as usual, getting gas when needed. Others became uneasy and became gas hungry. Just like the toilet paper shortage of 2020, Americans are now experiencing a gas shortage caused by two things: Colonial’s shut down and hungry Americans stockpiling gas. DarkSide didn’t want to cause a rift in our economy nor be the reason for the sudden rise of gas prices throughout the US, but they did. How do we stop these attackers from continuing to abuse those who aren’t prepared?

First thing’s first: maintain backups of your organization’s files. These backups must be offline and tested regularly. Along with your backups, regularly update templates of critical systems that may need rebuilt after a cyber attack. It’s important to conduct regular scanning to identify the vulnerabilities in your systems, continue to keep software updated as well as ensuring all security features are enabled. Lastly, have someone on your side. A go-to IT service will help you in the long run. You never know when and where an attacker will strike next. 

Utilizing IT services is a smart move, no matter the size of your organization. The Colonial Pipeline gas crisis is slowly coming to a close with the help of a third-party IT service. So, what now? For one, don’t go running to buy gallons and gallons of gas when you don’t need it. Next, look at your safety measures. Do you have back-up services in place? Have you checked your vulnerability? Do you have an IT service taking steps to maintain your safety? Today it was Colonial Pipeline, who will it be tomorrow?

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