A Ransomware Attack on some Critical Energy Infrastructure

The Story:

On May 7, a Georgia headquartered company, the Colonial Pipeline Co., reported that it had been the target of a hacking attack that disabled the computerized equipment used to manage one of the important pieces of energy infrastructure in the United States. The Colonial Pipeline system carries up to 3 million barrels of fuel a day along a 5.5 thousand mile route between Houston and the Port of NY/NJ.


The hacking was, it appears, the work of a Russia-based criminal enterprise that calls itself the Dark Side. It was a “ransomware” attack, that is, it came with an offer to the company, it would allow Colonial to take control take its assets back if Colonial met Dark Side’s demands. It appears Colonial did pay the ransom: roughly $5 million. And it did then restart its pipeline, on May 12.

The Thing to Know:

This attack, coming on the heels of the SolarWinds data breach a year before, could have a number of impacts on US policy and politics. For example, the Biden administration may make use of it as evidence of the pressing need to renovate infrastructure, and to adopt a broader 21st century conception of what the word “infrastructure” means.

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