The Colonial Pipeline Attack

by | May 10, 2021 | Blog Articles, Energy

A warm war continues against the United States

US critical infrastructure has once again come under state-sponsored cyberattack. This reveals another facet of what I described in Stormwall as an imminent danger from antagonistic states seeking to undermine our economy and nation.  

This time the assault comes in the guise of ransomware launched against our fuel distribution infrastructure. Colonial Pipeline, the largest refined petroleum products pipeline in the US, delivers gas and other fuels from the Gulf of Mexico to several major cities from Houston all the way to New York.  Suppling the Eastern seaboard with over half of its fuel needs, Colonial came under a sophisticated and debilitating cyberattack Friday night, and has remained offline for nearly three days since. 

We can now add gasoline to the ever-growing list of consumer goods where rapidly-rising prices are adding fuel to the fire of the inflationary pressure I wrote about in April.  National average gas prices are set to rise above $3 today, the first time since 2014. As of now, US fuel depots remain fully stocked, and there is no imminent risk of systemic shortages. Whether that remains true will depend on how long the pipeline stays shuttered and how bad this really is beneath the surface of what is being publicly disclosed.

Media commentators were quick to report that since the cyberattack came in the form of ransomware, it was perpetrated by a financially motivated, non-state criminal actor. This is a false flag.  It doesn’t matter whether or not it was DarkSide (the Russia-based criminal gang supposedly responsible) that pushed the ‘send’ button. Encapsulating the destabilizing code within ransomware was intended to throw the dumb as rocks media, and even some hedgehog-like investigators, off of the track. The nature of the target, the consequential disabling of our fuel supply, the sophistication of the technology, and the complexity of entry, are all signs the attacks were motivated, funded and supported by state sponsors. True cyber-criminals have much softer targets to go after without all the fuss.  

Other commentators point the finger at Putin’s Russia as the true dark force behind DarkSide.  Plausible.  But as I wrote in December, we need to be have a healthy skepticism of the knee-jerk “Russia did it!” narrative.  It takes our eyes off of China and the CCP, the real actor in the overarching anti-American narrative here. And we cannot rule out Iran or North Korea acting in concert and in service of their own strategic objectives.

Colonial will recover from this. We can expect the pipelines to reopen at some point this week. The US economy will march on. The real lesson of Colonial is that which I have been underscoring for nearly a year now. I wrote again in February, warning that our critical infrastructure is terribly vulnerable, and that we remain at risk of a catastrophe.  For those inclined to ignore or underestimate the risks and the probability of an extreme or even cataclysmic event from a systemic failure of our infrastructure, we have now had two serious incidents within 90 days. Let us wake up from our slumber.