What Happened To Colonial Pipelines?
Recently Colonial Pipelines was hit with a malware attack that forced them to shutdown. The event has received a lot of media attention and frankly too much excitement and very little information. Here’s Business Insider:
Largest US Fuel Pipeline Operator Shuts Down Operations After Cyber Attack (businessinsider.com)
Colonial Pipeline cyberattack shuts down pipeline that supplies 45% of East Coast’s fuel | ZDNet
Colonial Pipeline didn’t say very much more than they were hit with a ransomware attack and that they shut things down. They have not yet said why, and they have not yet said how the attack was initiated. As of wednesday, 5/12/21, they probably don’t know who pressed the button on the email that they shouldn’t have. Considering how much email a large company receives, they may never know and even it someone is alert to the potential for a problem there really is no way to stop it.
A ransomware attack operates generally from a phishing email that purports to look like some thing else. The reciever of the e-mail clicks a link and the email loads the app, which operates automatically from there. Typically, using one of several encryption algorithms the app will search first of all, for linked computer and copy itself. Then after a time, the app will start to encrypt files with certain filetypes. typically these are files of commonly used software, MSoffice and similar programs and things like graphics files in the common formats. ignored, will be files with extensions that app doesn’t know.
None of the articles say why Colonial shutdown. Since I know nothing about how Colonial operates their pipelines, I can only guess what was happening. First of all, I doubt that the ransomware actually had any impact on the operations of the pipelines themselves. I doubt that the ransomware even saw any of the files related to the control an operations of the pipeline and if it did, the file was a .txt file that something was using as a temp file and the file was probably wiped and a new state file created. There may have been some log files encrypted, but a ransomware app is not stuxnet, written by the boffins in the CIA and mossad. What I think that the ransomware did do was to encrypt the delivery files that Colonial used to know where they were sending the fluids in the pipeline. If that information was stored on an Excel spreadsheet file, and it very well could have been, then Colonial may suddenly not have known were they were supposed to deliver what kind of fuel. So Colonial shut down until they could work things out.