What Businesses Can Learn from the Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack


Written by

Filed under

As Colonial Pipeline returns online after a several-day outage resulting from a cyberattack that instigated a nationwide gas price surge and multiple states to experience shortages, business leaders across industries are left questioning their cybersecurity practices. There is no single solution to prevent a ransomware attack like the one on the largest refined oil pipeline in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean that preventative cybersecurity measures should be put on the back burner.

Security Awareness

Stay one step ahead of hackers with informed security awareness

Ransomware attacks have surged by over 80% in the last few years and a minimum of $18 billion was paid in ransoms alone, while the price of downtime added billions more in costs1. Expert studies show that the most common attack vector for ransomware is email, with infection occurring from a user unknowingly clicking on a malicious link or attachment2. At a minimum, the malware locks the company out of their own systems until a ransom is paid; then the hacker provides a “key” to the victim so they may regain access to their file and resume operations. However, double extortion and even triple extortion strategies are common these days. This is where the threat actors will exfiltrate the data before encryption, and then threaten to leak the company’s stolen data, or the data of their customers, unless their demands are met. 

The first step to preventing ransomware attacks is educating yourself and your employees of the latest tricks that hackers use to infiltrate your network. Security awareness training companies, such as KnowBe4, go above and beyond a stale slideshow and create simulated ransomware and other common attacks on your employees, leaving your workforce more confident to spot a phishing email or domain spoof before they have a chance to permeate your workplace.

Managed Security

Properly managed security is vital to ensure protection

Configuring security measures such as firewalls are just the first steps in staying protected against cyberattacks. As time goes on though, and users adjust permissions, install new software, or open new ports, for example, gaps in the management and maintenance of security systems leave a once-secure system newly exposed to hackers. Solutions like VPLS’s managed security services protect companies all the way from the cloud to the endpoint, relieving business owners of the burden of staying compliant with patching policies and standard configurations, and ultimately ensuring the security measures put in place stay secure over time.

Zero Trust Network Access

Secure distributed environments

Since the start of the pandemic, the need to distribute workplace environments remotely increased rapidly. The tools used to grant access to users remotely are often designed for easy use rather than optimized security. Once an infection occurs, inadequate segmentation between environments permit the spread of the virus laterally within the network. By isolating and segmenting, organizations will be able to cease further spread of ransomware across systems. This has led to the rapid adoption of a methodology known as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). VPLS is an industry expert when it comes to transitioning clients to this new model for security.
Key Takeaways

Companies of all sizes across all industries are at potential risk of a ransomware attack.

Cybersecurity today needs to be the primary element of all disaster recovery policies even for organizations that don’t identify themselves as a natural target. The question companies should be asking themselves is “when” an attack will take place rather than “if.” Incidents like the Colonial Pipeline crisis have unfortunately become all too common, making it imperative that organizations take the necessary measures to stay informed and prepared to handle such situations. Better security awareness training, leveraging the power of 24×7 managed security services, and securing distributed environments are just some of the takeaways industries can learn from the Colonial Pipeline disaster.

Is your business prepared to protect itself from sophisticated threats? Check out VPLS’s How to Prevent Ransomware—A Technical Checklist.

  1. Emsisoft, Report: The cost of ransomware in 2020. A country-by-country analysis, February 2020
  2. Sophos, The State of Ransomware 2020, Whitepaper, May 2020

Read More from this Author

Scroll to Top