Pipeline security needs unite US lawmakers
In a rare show of bipartisan agreement, US lawmakers on July 20 passed measures that would further bolster cybersecurity measures for the nation’s pipelines.
The US Department of Homeland Security issued mandates this week for pipeline owners and operators on cybersecurity. Through a new directive, they are called on to take specific mitigation measures against cybersecurity threats, develop recovery plans and perform regular cybersecurity reviews.
The measure is in large part a response to a ransomware attack in May on the Colonial fuels pipeline, which meets about half of the demand for refined products on the eastern US seaboard.
In the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the US Congress, lawmakers the same day passed resolutions that would bolster cybersecurity protections for the energy sector even further.
“The Colonial pipeline ransomware attack was painful proof that bad actors are increasingly focused on exploiting and attacking our nation’s most critical infrastructure,” said Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey and the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois, in a joint statement. “It’s absolutely crucial that we keep pace with the tools and resources necessary to both stop and mitigate fallout from these cyberattacks, and thankfully, today the House voted to do just that.”
The operating company behind the Colonial pipeline brought the network back on line after paying a hefty ransom. A Russian-language group dubbed DarkSide took credit for the ransomware attack, prompting the federal government to form an emergency inter-agency task force to examine the issue.
Three measures, HR 3119, 2931, and 2928, all passed through the House of Representatives this week. Broadly speaking, the measures would give the Department of Energy (DoE) more tools to address energy emergencies and cybersecurity threats.
From the Republican Party, committee members Cathy McMorris Rodgers, representing the state of Washington, and Fred Upton of Michigan expressed praise for the passage of the bills.
“This builds on our work to make sure expert agencies, like DoE, are empowered to combat bad actors and protect our critical infrastructure, including pipelines and our electric grid,” they said in a joint statement.
Several procedural steps remain before any of the measures wind up on president Joe Biden's desk for final approval.