Lessons Learned from the Colonial Pipelines Cyber Attack

The recent Colonial Pipelines cyberattack was the largest attack on the US energy system in history. As ransomware took over the system, it shut down the movement of gas through a pipeline that supplies nearly half the fuel for the Eastern Seaboard. 

Lessons Learned from the Colonial Pipelines Cyber Attack: What You Need to Know

The recent Colonial Pipelines cyberattack was the largest attack on the US energy system in history. As ransomware took over the system, it shut down the movement of gas through a pipeline that supplies nearly half the fuel for the Eastern Seaboard.

Not only did this attack have a highly visible impact, with many people rushing out to panic-buy gas in high quantities, it also serves as an important lesson for business owners across multiple sectors, including the energy sector.

What did we learn from the attack on the pipeline? Take a look at these critical lessons for any business infrastructure and overall security.

1. Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly common–and your business needs to be prepared.

Cyberattacks increased approximately 300% last year alone. Not only did more people have the time to work their way into those systems, they have more technological tools at their disposal than ever before, including artificial intelligence that can help make it easier to generate access to even the most secure systems. Not only that, many people have been working from home, on unsecured workstations–which can make it much easier for hackers to break into the system.

Cyberattacks have risen steadily over the last several years, even without the extra challenges faced by many businesses and security analysts in 2020–and they seem unlikely to stop in the near future. As a result, it has become essential that businesses be prepared.

It’s no longer a question of “if” your business will get hit by a cyberattack. It’s more a question of “when”–and whether your business is prepared to respond. 47% of small businesses suffered a cyber attack last year. The cost of those attacks has continued to increase exponentially. By preparing your business ahead of time, however, you can put yourself in a better position to weather those attacks and decrease the amount you will have to spend to restore your business’s overall functionality.

2. Interdependability is an asset. 

Isolation within a single system may sound like it will provide a higher level of security: you don’t have to worry about people breaking in from the outside if they can’t get into the system at all. Today’s technology, however, is unlikely to run efficiently if it’s not connected–and your business may quickly lag behind. More devices than ever are internet-connected. Those connections can help provide you with greater levels of accessibility and the data to keep your business running effectively–but they may also serve as windows that can allow others to access your system.

Isolation can also leave you cut off when an attack does happen, which can slow down your overall functionality and increase the cost necessary to restore your business.

Interdependability–reliance on other businesses and systems that can help bring your business back up–is a critical tool that can help you achieve your overall goals. In the energy sector, this means options like moving in fuel from other locations or providing access to larger storage facilities. For your business, it may mean expanding your partnerships with other businesses, storing information in secure locations, and creating an internal grid that incorporates other partner companies. Standing in isolation often will not help businesses survive cyberattacks–but working with other businesses can help you more effectively address the challenges that may come your way.

3. Data backups are essential for any business.

Some businesses may assume that they can weather the challenges that may come their way without backups. Your data, however, is often the foundation of your business. Ransomware resulted in the Colonial Pipeline being taken offline for several days–and ultimately, the ransom had to be paid in order to restore normal function.

Ransomware can prove incredibly costly for your company. Unfortunately, many companies have little choice but to pay the ransom in order to have their systems unlocked and functionality restored. Ransomware isn’t just a challenge for stored data. It can also impact your programs, apps, and overall functionality, leaving your business unable to operate much of its essential technology.

Data backups are critical. With backups, you can restore your system, getting you back to normal more quickly. Unfortunately, all too many businesses have insufficient backups–or even no backups at all. Creating backups takes time and effort. You may not want to slow down your usual processes to create those backups. Unfortunately, that means that you may end up in a bind if ransomware does strike your business.

As a business, you must carefully consider how much data and what programs you deal with on a regular basis and what you can afford to lose in the event of a ransomware attack or other cyberattack. If your system were locked down right now, how much data would you lose–and how long would it take you to make up the difference?

Is that an acceptable risk?

If your answer is no, it may be time to carefully consider your data backup policy–and to create one that will help you keep your business functioning even in the event of a cyberattack.

4. Every business needs an effective disaster recovery plan.

No matter how large or small your business, you need a disaster recovery plan that will help your business weather the cyber storms that may come your way. If you’re hit by a ransomware attack, who needs to be notified? What should you do if malware locks down your system? If you don’t have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place, you may have to take the time to answer those questions while your business is already down–and suffering for it.

During the Colonial Pipeline attack, we got a hard look at exactly how much an attack can impact everyone–not just the business itself, but those who rely on it. While this attack was a large-scale example, smaller businesses should also consider how the loss of their services could impact their customers, including the domino effect that could send that impact cascading through society. A disaster recovery plan may not prevent losses entirely, but it can help everything go much more smoothly.

Do you need better cybersecurity or a more effective data backup or disaster recovery plan for your business? Has the Colonial Pipeline attack made you start thinking hard about potential cybersecurity challenges and the long-term impact they could have on your business? Contact us today to learn more about how we can set you up with more effective security.