Biden declares emergency after hackers shut down major US pipeline | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

The US government declared a regional emergency Sunday as the largest fuel pipeline system in the United States remained largely shut down, two days after a major ransomware attack was detected.

The emergency declaration allows for fuel to be transported by road to the affected states.

The Biden administration is to set to step up cybersecurity in the coming weeks, with an executive order expected to instruct federal agencies and contractors to plug security gaps that have left them vulnerable to a wave of cyberattacks in recent months.

The latest assault, on the 5,500 mile Colonial Pipeline, which provides nearly half the fuel used on the US East Coast, is believed to have been carried out by DarkSide, a cybercriminal group operating out of Russia and Eastern Europe.

It wrought havoc on the company’s computer network forcing the shutdown of the pipeline which runs from New Jersey to Texas. It is feared the attack could cause a further spike in fuel prices in the US which have already been soaring in recent months.

Colonial, which normally ships 2.5 million barrels a day, serves consumers in the mid-Atlantic and southeast of the US. Its customers include the world’s busiest passenger airport in Atlanta.

In a statement confirming that it had been the victim of a ransomware attack, the company said it had called in cybersecurity experts to conduct an investigation.

A spokesman for the Colonial Pipeline said some smaller pipelines have been restored.

“We are in the process of restoring service to other laterals and will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations.”

In only the last few days cyberattacks have been reported on the police department in Washington DC, in which criminals threatened to release details about informants and the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

Experts say that ransomware attacks have proliferated in recent months targeting hospitals, municipalities and police departments.  In February drastically increased changed the level of sodium hydroxide in water after penetrating cybersecurity at a Florida treatment plant.

The hundredfold increase in the proportion of the chemical, the main ingredient in drain cleaners, made the water undrinkable.

As many as 2,400 organisations were hit by ransomware demands last year.

According to a report issued by a ransomware task force, the amount paid by victims more than tripled last year, compared with 2019 reaching an estimated $350 million (£250 million).

The Biden administration has vowed to take on the cybercriminals.

Alejandro Majorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, said this was “one of our most important priorities right now” as he announced a “60-say sprint” to tackle ransomware.

Bloomberg reported the DarkSide hackers took nearly 100 gigabytes of data from Colonial’s network.

DarkSide, which made no mention of the Colonial attack on its dark-net website, emerged last August carrying out a series of ransomware attacks on an array of organisation.

It even issued a press release at the time.

“We are a new product on the market, but that does not mean that we have no experience and we came from nowhere,”  the criminals boasted.

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