Ransomware attacks happen all the time, with an estimated 4,000 attacks happening every day (one every 11 seconds). The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack is just the most recent high-profile attack on a U.S. company, but it also sheds light on the real and present dangers of criminal hackers abroad.
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What Happened in the Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack?
On May 7, 2021, a hacker attacked Colonial Pipeline, the largest American pipeline for refined oil products. The cyberattack affected the company’s computer network, which forced Colonial Pipeline to shut down its operations as a precaution. Their cessation of fuel distribution, which amounts to approximately 45% of the East Coast fuel supply, quickly led to panic buying and widespread fuel shortages.
Colonial Pipeline worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to respond to the hacker’s ransom note, with the payment of $4.4 million, or 75 bitcoin, shortly after the ransomware attack. The hackers sent a software application that slowly restored the network to Colonial Pipeline’s control. The company took more than a week before returning operations to something akin to normalcy.
What Is a Ransomware Attack?
A ransomware attack is really just an extension of a hacker’s malware attack. The attacker hacks into a computer system by exploiting security vulnerabilities and then seizes control over the device(s) and data. The ransomware occurs when the hacker demands a huge payout to release their hold on the company’s network and devices.
Ransomware attacks are especially dangerous because hackers can easily bypass security and access the company’s computer network, with all its apps, files, databases, etc., without top-level admin access.
Who Was Responsible for the Ransomware Attack?
The FBI indicated that DarkSide, a Russian hacker group that’s been under investigation, was responsible for the cyberthreat and ransomware attack, which shut down Colonial Pipeline and its 5,500 miles of distribution network. They are not the only famous hacking group, but they have managed to quickly make a name for themselves.
DarkSide claims to be apolitical, without ties to any government or political group. They’ve been around since August 2020, with the continued and ongoing pursuit of huge payouts via ransomware attacks on companies in the U.S. and Europe. They hack in and gain access to the network and all data, which they then use to extort money from companies with threats that they’ll release the personal info.
What Makes a Company Susceptible to Ransomware?
Companies already face so many challenges even in the scope of “normal” business processes and procedures. After all, some of the biggest companies in the world have been attacked by ransomware, so it may seem impossible to stop a cyberattack.
The good news is that you can take steps to minimize the risk of ransomware attacks on your organization. First, you must understand that many of the challenges related to cybercrime and ransomware attacks are not impossible to stop. Still, you must also be willing to acknowledge that you will need to invest in data protection and security measures not only for your network but also for your team.
You must address the most basic misconceptions about cybercrime first. Then, with growing experience, awareness, and understanding of what you’re facing, you can begin the concrete steps to address the lapses in security and training that make you most vulnerable to a cyberattack. Here are some top tips that should help you protect your company from ransomware and cyber threats.
Back-Up Your Files
It’s not just a matter of backing up your files once a year or even once a month. You should back up files at least once a day, if not more, but you should also set up external backups that are offsite and offline to fully protect your company from cyberattacks. Ultimately, Colonial Pipeline was able to get back up and running with their own backups, even after they paid the hackers.
Hackers can more easily maintain long-term control of a company’s network when there are no current backups. If you think about it, the company may be over a barrel when they are not able to access current company records, including sales information, customer details, and inventory breakdowns.
Update Your Security Protocols and Systems
You should use top-notch cybersecurity measures for your network and computers, including up-to-date antivirus software. Regularly check those computer measures and verify that you have the latest versions for your operating system, along with the patches for all the software applications, widgets, and programs you and your team use.
Part of updating your security should include training as well as frank and ongoing discussions with your team and with any individual associated with your company, including board members. People are your greatest vulnerability, which is why hackers are so often able to take advantage of security lapses and risks that are directly related to the people who work for a company.
Use Strong Passwords
It’s often easier and even faster to reuse passwords across an organization. Then anyone can access the files you all use, without the hassle and slowdown of copying, sharing, or looping others into the workflow. Of course, we now know that the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline succeeded because of their lapses in password security.
It’s important to use strong passwords, but also to change them regularly and keeping them secure. Creating and maintaining insecure passwords is one of the most basic ways that a hacker can successfully break into a company’s network and cause havoc, which is why Team Password offers a free trial to show you just how much a comprehensive password manager will help your team with its password security needs.
Test for a Cyberattack
With so many attacks happening every day, your company is under constant threat. While there’s not a lot you can do to prevent hackers from trying to break into your network, you can continually test your security measures to make sure that you’ve got them locked down as much as possible.
The more you do to prepare, prevent, and mitigate the effects of a cyberattack, the better off your company will be when a hacker launches a full-scale attack. Constantly testing and being aware of new cyber threats also means that you’ll be more likely to see incursions into your network security and be prepared to stop them.
What Was the Resolution of the Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack?
Ransomware attacks can bring a company’s operations to a standstill. The true resolution of a ransomware attack breaks down in a few different ways. In the case of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, the company paid the hackers nearly $5 million, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was able to recover part of the ransom money. Still, it’s also a wake-up call for not only Colonial Pipeline but also all major companies and corporations. This case has blown up in the news because it is such a serious breach. The event was also not something that Colonial Pipeline could easily hide, with the fuel shortage and the potential for further damages.
What Makes the Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack Different?
When hackers attack prominent companies, it’s not always public knowledge that it’s happening. In fact, some of the most prominent cases weren’t publicized until long after the incidents happened. It’s understandable in most cases that the company wants to keep the security breach quiet, particularly when the customer data at major financial institutions have been compromised.
In the Colonial Pipeline incident alone, the hackers stole 100 gigabytes of data and threatened to release it on the internet. We’d have to assume that the hackers still have possession of all that data or can use it for their own purposes. It’s important to recognize that cases like this happen every day, but that this case encouraged us all to talk about what we can do to prevent cyberattacks like this from happening.
Next Step: Sign Up for a Free Trial at TeamPassword
The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack highlights the importance of maintaining excellent digital “hygienic” practices. In other words, it’s important to do everything you can to protect your company from attack. Still, some of the most basic principles of digital security (like password reuse) can be overlooked. That’s where TeamPassword comes in.
At TeamPassword, we offer the tools to ensure that your team has the safest and most secure passwords and logins possible with our Password Manager for teams. It’s our goal to make sure that one of the basic security measures (making sure you don't reuse passwords) is locked down.
Our goal is to help you protect your company and your team, so you can focus on the other essential aspects of supporting your company’s growth and development. Find out more about how your free trial can help your team combat the dangers of cyberattacks today!