Energy Infrastructure Cybersecurity: An Expert Perspective from Dr. Chris Pierson

  • A ransomware cyberattack against the Colonial Pipeline was discovered on Friday, May 7 causing it to shut down for six days. Colonial paid $4.4 million to the attackers according to reports in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Colonial Pipeline is the largest refined products pipeline in the US, transporting more than 100 million gallons of fuel per day through a system that spans more than 5,500 miles between Houston, Texas and Linden, New Jersey (see Figure 1).
  • The outage caused widespread fuel shortages in markets served by the system and caused fuel prices to spike.
  • According to the IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2021 report, energy ranked third among the top ten industries by attack volume, up from ninth in 2019. Energy trailed only the finance/insurance and manufacturing sectors. Ransomware attacks accounted for 23% of the security events IBM’s X-Force responded to in 2020.
  • According to the State of Ransomware 2021 survey commissioned by Sophos, 37% of organizations (5,400 surveyed) were impacted by a ransomware attack in 2020. Of the 197 energy, oil/gas, and utilities surveyed, 36% had been impacted. The sector topped the chart as most likely to pay the ransom, which was attributed to the sector typically having legacy infrastructure making victims more likely to pay to enable continuation of services (see Figures 2 – 4).
  • On May 27, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced a new security directive that will require critical pipeline owners and operators to report confirmed and potential cybersecurity incidents to the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)and to designate a Cybersecurity Coordinator that will be available 24/7. The directive also requires critical pipeline owners and operators to review their current practices and to identify any gaps and related remediation measures to address cyber-related risks and to report the results to the TSA and CISA within 30 days.

A globally recognized expert on cybersecurity and privacy, Dr. Chris Pierson is responsible for the strategic direction of BlackCloak and the development of its proprietary protection technology and approach. He has more than 20 years of experience at the forefront of cybersecurity and fighting cybercrime drawing on his background in cybersecurity, privacy, engineering and the law to protect key targets in the public and private sectors from nation state actors and cybercriminals. Chris’ experience includes fighting fraud and hackers at one of the largest global banks (Royal Bank of Scotland [RBS]), working as a Special Government Employee for the DHS on its Cybersecurity Subcommittee and Privacy Committee, as the President of the FBI’s Phoenix Infragard, and as the founding executive of Viewpost – a FinTech payments company.


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A ransomware cyberattack against the Colonial Pipeline was discovered on Friday, May 7 causing it to shut down for six days. Colonial paid $4.4 million to the attackers according to reports in The Wall Street Journal.


Jeff Robertson: Good afternoon, I want to thank everyone for joining us today. I am Jeff Robertson, Managing Director of Natural Resources Research at Water Tower Research. We are pleased to be joined today by Dr. Chris Pierson. Dr. Pierson is the founder and CEO of BlackCloak, a firm that provides cybersecurity protection to individuals and companies. The recent ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline increased the awareness of cybercrime threats to critical infrastructure.

The Colonial Pipeline system is a 5,500-mile pipeline that runs from Houston, Texas to New York Harbor, supplying about 100 million gallons a day of refined products. The attack created severe supply shortages in states served by the pipeline that temporarily drove the gasoline prices higher and occurred at a time when oil prices and refined product prices were already edging higher.

Oil markets have firmed in recent months as demand recovers from the COVID depressio...


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