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Ransomware, and the US fuel hack

In May, a criminal group hacked a major US fuel pipeline. This was a ransomware attack, where the group DarkSide infiltrated Colonial Pipeline’s network, locking the data on computers and servers and demanding a ransom. But how did it happen, and how can you keep your business safe against cyber attacks?

The US fuel pipeline hack

The US fuel pipeline hack was headline news in May, as the ransomware attack took down Colonial Pipeline for five days. The pipeline is 5,500 miles long, and carries 2.5 million barrels a day along the East Coast of the US. 

The attack had a huge impact on fuel costs, sending the price of petrol rocketing. It was confirmed a few days later, after some states had declared the incident an emergency, that Colonial Pipeline paid around £3.6 million in ransom to the hackers. 

How did the hack happen?

Although it isn’t clear how exactly this hack occurred, one possibility is a phishing email. This is a very simple, low risk and low cost option for hackers. A phishing email is sent to someone (or in some cases, multiple people) within the organisation they are targeting. 

The victim clicks a link in the email, which immediately triggers a download of the encryption software. From there, the victim’s computer or device, and any connected computers or devices are encrypted, making all of them inaccessible.

In a ransomware attack, this is where hackers can simply request the fee to unencrypt the systems. Without this decryption key, all of the systems that have been encrypted remain inaccessible to users, effectively crippling the organisation.

It’s important to remember that a huge amount of the systems running modern services are digital, meaning more connections, devices and services to encrypt and exploit. In this ransomware attack, diesel, petrol and jet fuel was simply cut off.

What can businesses do to stay safe?

Although this was a huge hack, SMEs are particularly vulnerable to ransomware. This is due to the huge financial cost that hacks can have on companies. Even when businesses do not pay the ransom, the cost of attempting to recover data, the financial side of overhauling the network security and loss of customers can cause businesses to close.

However, there are some preventative measures that you can take to ensure that your business doesn't fall victim to ransomware attacks. The most important thing is to educate your employees. Ensuring that your staff know what to look out for in a phishing email can help stop hacks before they even start.

A key part of the ransomware attack is the way that the business is disabled, and for that reason backups are essential for SMEs. Backups are essentially save points for your business, so if something goes wrong, you can get your business back to normal. When you work with Transcendit, we can offer you cloud-based backups as well as physical backup solutions.

We also offer businesses disaster recovery plans. This is a plan that we create with you so that you’re prepared for whatever happens, and you know exactly what steps to follow whilst we’re getting your business back up and running again. 

Worried about ransomware? Give us a call on 0191 482 0444

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