In the wake of the Colonial pipeline cyber attack, the Department of Homeland Security released new cyber protocols for pipeline owners and operators on Thursday after the hack disrupted fuel supplies in the southeastern United States for days this month.
“The recent ransomware attack on a major petroleum pipeline demonstrates that the cybersecurity of pipeline systems is critical to our homeland security,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
The owners and operators of critical pipelines will be required to report confirmed and potential cybersecurity incidents to the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and designate a cybersecurity coordinator, to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, DHS said.
The directive will also mandate that pipeline owners and operators review current cybersecurity practices and identify any gaps and remediation measures for risks, it said. They must report those results to the Transportation Security Administration, a unit of DHS, and CISA within 30 days.
The catastrophic ransomware attack disrupted the operation of the Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey, and they were forced to shut down a large part of their network for several days earlier this month, leaving thousands of gas stations across the U.S. Southeast without fuel.
After the pandemic shortages, and fearing more disruption, people raced to fill their tanks as the outage illustrated the nation’s reliance on a few key pipelines for fuel needs.
The closure of the 5,500-mile (8,900-km) system was the most disruptive cyberattack on record, preventing millions of barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from flowing to the East Coast from the Gulf Coast.
According to Reuters, the bad actors held Colonial Pipeline’s computer network hostage and successfully extorted millions of dollars in digital currency. The cyber incident has bumped the security of critical U.S. infrastructure to the forefront of the national agenda.