After Colonial Pipeline Co. decided to pay the ransom, many experts have opened the discussion whether this would serve as a catalyst for attacks on other critical infrastructure providers.
Some cybersecurity experts question the contentions of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and another member of Congress, who say a $5 million ransom reportedly paid by Colonial Pipeline Co. after being hit by DarkSide ransomware would serve as a catalyst for attacks on other critical infrastructure providers.
Cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, such as the breach of a water treatment facility in Oldsmar, Florida, are relatively common, so the apparent ransom payment in the Colonial Pipeline incident is likely to have little influence, some security pros say.
“The floodgates are already open,” says Etay Maor, an adjunct professor at Boston College and senior director of cybersecurity strategy at Cato Networks.
The May 7 attack that struck the company’s IT infrastructure led the pipeline operator to temporarily shut down its operations; it began launching restart efforts Wednesday.
The research firm Elliptic says that on Friday, it identified evidence that Colonial Pipeline paid the ransom.
Elliptic says it discovered the bitcoin wallet the ransomware group used to receive ransom payments from its victims. “Based on our intelligence collection and analysis of blockchain transactions, this wallet received the 75 BTC [bitcoin] payment made by Colonial Pipeline on May 8, following the crippling cyberattack on its operations – leading to widespread fuel shortages in the U.S.,” says Tom Robinson, Elliptic’s co-founder and chief scientist.
Colonial Pipeline has not confirmed paying the ransom or even being in contact with its attackers. The company has not responded to Information Security Media Group’s requests for comment.
The company’s pipeline connects refineries in the Gulf Coast to customers throughout the southern and eastern U.S., carrying gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil and fuel for the military. Colonial Pipeline transports about 45% of all the fuel consumed on the East Coast.