Will The Biden Administration Do Something About The Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack? Or Is This The New Normal?

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Colonial Pipeline incident in the Roosevelt Room of the White House May 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.
T.J. Kirkpatrick-Pool/Getty Images

A criminal gang of hackers caused one of America’s largest oil and gas pipelines to shut down for days, and even though the pipeline is operational again, it will take days for gas stations in the affected area to resupply.

As I wrote yesterday, the gas shortages could have been avoided if people just remained calm and only purchased what they needed, when they needed it, but here we are. At least where I live in Northern Virginia, almost every gas station in the area is closed because they ran out of gas. The only two gas stations that were open a couple days ago had massive lines in all directions. At the time of this writing, a gas station in Richmond is charging $6.99 a gallon.

The shutdown was caused by hacking group DarkSide, the FBI said, who used ransomware on Colonial’s business networks (which weren’t connected to the pipeline) and demanded a ransom to provide the decryption program that would slowly remove the malware. Colonial reportedly paid the ransom of $5 million.

But what will America do in response to this cyberattack? So far, it doesn’t look like much, and that’s worrisome. Most of the response from the Biden administration so far has been focused on whether private companies should pay ransom or not. The FBI discourages ransom payments, saying that it “doesn’t guarantee you or your organization will get any data back,” and “encourages perpetrators to target more victims and offers an incentive for others to get involved in this type of illegal activity.”

Yet, this is where we are with the Colonial pipeline. They reportedly paid the ransom. Maybe we’ll find out soon that this was yet another fake news story, but if that were the case, shouldn’t we have known by now? If Colonial didn’t pay, wouldn’t they have said so? I suspect DarkSide might have sent word they hadn’t received any payment, though would we be able to trust the word of these criminals? What would be the reasoning behind letting Americans – and our enemies – think that American companies will pay millions in ransom?

There hasn’t been much in the way of encouraging news out of the Biden administration. On Thursday, when Biden finally spoke about the issue, he said his administration wouldn’t rule out a counterattack, insisting the U.S. would pursue “a measure to disrupt their ability to operate.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said such an attack would wait on recommendations from U.S. Cyber Command.

Okay, I guess. Those aren’t the strongest statements given the implications of what just happened.

Before that, Biden signed an executive order that directed the Commerce Department to come up with new standards for software vendors that supplied the federal government. This does absolutely nothing to go after DarkSide, but damn it, it sounds tough. Plus, Biden received glowing praise from former Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Christopher Krebs, who called the executive order a “dramatic game change” and said it showed Biden’s “committed leadership vision” on cybersecurity concerns. Methinks someone wants a job in the administration.

Prior to Biden’s tepid comments about going after DarkSide, his Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, sniped at Americans suffering from the gas shortage by saying if they drove electric cars, it “would not be affecting you.” His deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technologies, Anne Neuberger, suggested it was “a private sector decision” for Colonial to pay the ransom.

Maybe if Colonial thought the federal government might go after the hackers or offered any kind of support, it wouldn’t have felt compelled to pay the hackers. We already know the Biden administration is no friend to oil and gas, so why would the company think the administration would help? Or maybe the company just panicked (if Bloomberg’s report is true).

We have no indication that our government is going to seriously go after these criminals, so what’s a private company to do? They can’t just call the police when the criminals are international, and paying a ransom encourages others to seek demands.

The Biden administration’s response, however, doesn’t inspire hope that this kind of thing won’t be an issue in the future. Sure, companies should do what they can to protect themselves, but if our government is just going to let criminals go, what’s to stop this from becoming open season on our country’s infrastructure?

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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