The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the Biden administration is working with pipeline companies to strengthen protections against cyberattacks following the Colonial Pipeline hack.
Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey is forced to shut much of its network for several days this month because of a ransomware attack. This leaves thousands of gas stations across the U.S. Southeast without fuel. Motorists fearing prolonged shortages raced to fill their tanks. This is because the outage laid bare the nation’s reliance on a few key pipelines for fuel needs.
The agency said that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a unit of the DHS, is coordinating with companies in the pipeline sector. And this is to ensure that they are taking all necessary steps to increase their resilience to cyber threats and secure their systems. The TSA is collaborating with another branch of DHS, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
The most disruptive cyberattack on record was the closure of the 5,500-mile (8,900-km) system. This has prevented millions of barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from flowing to the East Coast from the Gulf Coast. Senior officials said that the Washington Post reported that DHS is preparing to issue its first mandatory cybersecurity regulations on pipelines. TSA said that this month it has since expanded their staff to 34 positions.
Senior DHS officials said that the TSA would require pipeline companies to report cyber incidents to the federal government. The article said that the new rules will require companies to correct any problems and address shortcomings. Retail U.S. gasoline prices surged to a seven-year high after the outage. Prices remain elevated from prior to the hack, but have slowly declined from the peak reached just as the line was reopened.
The new regulations were discussed after DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other top officials considered how they could use existing TSA powers to bring change to the industry. Representative Bennie Thompson, chair of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives, called the move as a major step in the right direction towards ensuring that pipeline operators are taking cybersecurity seriously and reporting any incidents immediately.