Cybersecurity assessment required for US pipelines following Colonial attack

A Biden administration directive will require US pipeline operators to conduct a cybersecurity assessment on their pipelines following the recent Colonial Pipeline hack.

A directive by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will also require pipeline owners and operators to report any cyber-related incidents to the US government and have a cybersecurity coordinator available at all times in the possibility of another attack.

According to Security Week, pipeline companies that fail to comply with a security directive could now face fines of around $7,000 per day. Prior to this, many pipeline companies operated under voluntary guidelines.

The pipeline owners will be required to complete the assessment within a 30-day period and will have to show how their process line up alongside the voluntary guidelines. The companies must also provide a plan for addressing any gaps identified in their operations.

Furthermore, operators will be mandated to report any cybersecurity incidents to Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The TSA worked with the owners and operators of the around 100 pipeline companies to develop the voluntary guidelines and will conduct the on-site assessments.

Operations at the Colonial Pipeline were halted earlier this month when a cyberattack affected some of its IT systems. A day later, the FBI declared that the DarkSide ransomware variant was behind the attack. It was found that DarkSide had demanded a $4.4m ransom payment from Colonial, which the pipeline company paid in full.

The Colonial Pipeline transports 100 million gallons of fuel daily to customers from New York to Texas and is the largest pipeline for moving gas and diesel products in the US at 2.7 million miles.

An unnamed US official said, “The evolution of ransomware attacks in the last 12-18 months has gotten to a point that it poses a national security risk and that we are concerned about the impact on national critical functions.”

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