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The Colonial Pipeline Hack: How it Happened, and How K3 Technology Can Help Prevent Attacks Like This

May 25, 2021

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The Colonial Pipeline Hack: How it Happened, and How K3 Technology Can Help Prevent Attacks Like This

On May 6th, the Colonial Pipeline was hit with a ransomware attack. As a result, the company was forced to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of pipeline and triggered widespread fuel shortages in the Southeast of the U.S. As of Saturday, May 15th, Colonial Pipeline is now back to servicing all markets. However, some areas are still experiencing fuel shortages.

The Colonial Pipeline is the largest pipeline system for refined oil products in the United States. Headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, the pipeline carries gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from Texas to as far away as New York.

Unfortunately, this ransomware attack highlighted the vulnerability of the country’s critical infrastructure and has caused companies to improve their cybersecurity.

So, how did the Colonial Pipeline hack happen, and how can attacks like these be prevented?

Referred to by the FBI as a group called “Darkside”, the hackers began their ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline. The hackers stole about 100 gigabytes of data in a double extortion scheme. This type of scheme holds the data hostage and threatens to leak it.

Ransomware is a type of malware (malicious software) that threatens to publish a victim’s data or perpetually block access to it until a ransom is paid.

After discovering the hack, Colonial Pipeline halted operations and paid nearly $5 million in ransom for software to decrypt its computers.

In addition to paying the steep ransom within hours of the attack, the company also continued to use their own backups to restore the system because the decrypting tool they were given was working too slowly.

Preventing Ransomware Attacks

Unfortunately, ransomware attacks are common. They provide an urgent reminder of why companies need to harden their infrastructure. Above all, making it more resilient against these types of threats. Although big names associated with ransomware and cyberattacks pop up in the news frequently, what you do not hear about as often is small to medium-sized businesses that suffer losses due to breaches. What’s more, it is estimated that one in five small businesses fall victim to a cyberattack, and of those, 60 percent go out of business within six months.

To prevent these types of attacks, companies must take steps like these to keep their data secure:
  • Never click on unsafe links.
  • Avoid disclosing personal information.
  • Do not open suspicious email attachments.
  • Keep your programs and operating systems up to date.
  • Use only known download sources.
  • Use VPN services on public Wi-Fi networks.

K3 Technology Specializes in Keeping Your Company Safe and Secure

To ensure your data is protected and prevent your systems from being compromised, here are some services we offer:

Security training for employees, including establishing best security practices and policies.

In recent surveys, computer viruses and phishing attacks have accounted for nearly 75% of ransomware and cyberattacks. Security awareness training can be one of the strongest defenses against phishing attacks. Random and basic training can quickly result in a 10-15% reduction in your risk of a breach. Moreover, consistent and targeted training can reduce your risk by as much as 45%.

Protecting information, computers, and networks from ransomware and cyberattacks.

Protecting your infrastructure and data can be complex, but it does not have to be. Our IT experts can quickly assess your environment for security gaps. Allowing us to implement solutions and services where appropriate to better protect your assets and information. Although there are best practices that we typically look to implement for all of our clients, there can be additional custom solutions tailored for your organization and environment to provide you with the most effective and comprehensive protection.

Providing backups and business continuity plans.

With multiple backup points, K3 Technology always ensures that your business and data are safe and available in the event of a disaster. In addition, we can assess your organization’s needs and implement the appropriate disaster recovery and business continuity solutions to provide the protection that you need. Ask yourself – if your organization is completely down for a day, how much revenue will you lose? How much money would be lost on the payroll? Now, imagine if your organization is down for a week or more and multiply those numbers. Most importantly, when it comes to protecting your organization from revenue loss, disaster recovery and business continuity should be at the top of your priorities.

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Although the mentioned solutions and services can go a long way in protecting your assets, it would be in your organization’s best interest to assess your environment, policies, and practices, so that we can recommend what would be the most effective steps in protecting YOUR environment. Again, there is not a one size fits all solution for security.

Above all, K3 Technology can help you develop an effective, holistic and practical approach to security. An approach that makes sense for your organization, ensuring that you are getting the most bang for your buck.

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Kelly Kercher
President and Founder
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