Cybersecurity May Be A Pipe Dream
May 11, 2021
The Good News
Cybersecurity May Be A Pipe Dream
(Michael M Santiago via Getty Images)
The bigger they are, the better the target. The federal government has launched an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to avoid fuel shortages and price hikes after a critical pipeline supplying the east coast was shut down, in what the government is calling the worst ever cyber-attack on US infrastructure.
This past weekend, Colonial Pipeline was hit by a ransomware attack, in which criminal (or black-hat) hackers restrict a person’s or a company’s access to their own system until they pay a large ransom. In a ransomware attack, hackers often encrypt data, paralyze networks, lock out users, and the like.
The pipeline delivers roughly 2.5 million barrels of gasoline and other fuel from Texas to the northeast every day. That’s about 45% of all the fuel consumed on the East Coast, according to Colonial. That particular pipeline is part of a much broader system that spans more than 5,500 miles and transports more than 100 million gallons per day.
So far, Colonial Pipeline has provided little public information about the state of the attack. The company said Sunday that it was actively attempting to restore its IT systems and was keeping close contact with federal agencies. The company has not reported what the demand was, who made it, or whether the company will pay it. However, based on similar incidents, the fact that no organization has yet claimed credit for the attack indicates the victim is either negotiating or has paid.
While Colonial Pipeline attempts to get back up and running, either by paying the ransom or through its own technical wherewithal, the federal Department of Transportation issued an emergency declaration to relax regulations for drivers carrying many types of refined petroleum products in 17 states and D.C. The move lets drivers work extra or more flexible hours to make up for any fuel shortage stemming from the pipeline outage. If the outage is over quickly, there most likely won’t be a fuel shortage, but some economists believe that a “15 to 20-cent rise in gas prices” could occur if the outage stretches on for a few weeks.
Even if the outage does create a brief fuel shortage, the fallout still could have been much worse. On the economic side, Goldman Sachs — one of the world’s biggest oil traders — warned that attacks could be “far more disruptive” in the future, once fuel demand has fully recovered from its pandemic low. On the technical side, the attack itself could have hurt Colonial much more. A source close to the investigation said that the attackers might have also stolen company data, allowing for future extortion. Also, as one cybersecurity expert warned, “companies vulnerable to ransomware … are probably more vulnerable to more serious attacks.” (Guardian)
Maintenance Crews Heed Warnings, Flock Back To U.S.
(George Wilson via Getty Images)
- Lockheed Martin announced that they would be recalling maintenance crews for Iraq’s F-16 fighter jets due to security concerns on Monday. “In coordination with the U.S. government and with employee safety as our top priority, Lockheed Martin is relocating our Iraq-based F-16 team,” Joseph LaMarca Jr., a company vice president for communications, said in a statement.
- The decision comes as the Iraqi government struggles to end rocket attacks by militias suspected of being backed by Iran. The Iraqi prime minister said Iraq was trying to persuade the remaining U.S. companies that their employees would be safe, and acknowledged the F-16 program had been problematic. (NYT, $)
Muslim Women Targeted To Suppress Birth Rates
- Despite efforts to increase the falling birthrate in China, women in Xinjiang are being forced to have fewer. The government has been tightening their grip on the Muslim ethnic minorities in the western region of Xianjiang with efforts including orders to fit women with contraceptive devices.
- The penalties for not obeying the government are quite steep as well. A Han Chinese woman who violated the birth regulations would face a fine, while a Uyghur or Kazakh woman would face possible detention.
- Other measures of oppression include visits from the Chinese Communist Party cadres – a part of a campaign called “Pair Up and Become Family.” The cadres were tasked with reporting on whether the families they visited showed signs of “extremist behavior.” For women, this includes any resentment they might show toward the state-mandated contraceptive procedures. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Violence Shakes Israel, With Rocket Fire and Police Battling Palestinians (NYT, $)
- After Jerusalem clashes, Hamas and Israel exchange fire (WaPo, $)
- At least 1m people facing starvation as Madagascar’s drought worsens (Guardian)
- The weapons seizure so big it covered the rear deck of a 567-foot US warship (CNN)
- Benin bronzes: With Germany set to return looted art, Nigerians want to see more countries do the same (WaPo, $)
- Taliban declare three-day Eid ceasefire as 11 killed in new bombing (Guardian)
- Huawei CEO tells staff to keep fewer records, write shorter memos (WaPo, $)
- Experts call for mandatory recycling of products containing rare metals (Guardian)
Biden Rolling Back Trump Era Of Harm
- The Department of Health & Human Services announced on Monday that President Biden is reversing a Trump-era policy that restricted protections for transgender people in healthcare. Healthcare providers and healthcare organizations that receive federal funding will no longer be allowed to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The move is a huge victory for LGBTQ+ advocates who are currently working tirelessly to fight laws across the country that seek to harm the trans community.
- HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement that “everyone – including LGBTQ people – should be able to access healthcare, free from interference or discrimination, period.” HHS has said that 25% of LGBTQ people who have faced discrimination in the past chose to either postpone or avoid getting medical care entirely for fear of facing more discrimination.
- Back in June of 2020, the Trump administration rolled back protections against discrimination, but before the policy was set to take effect in August of 2020, a federal judge blocked the administration from enforcing the policy. (NBC)
Trump Is Becoming Ball And Cheney For Republicans
- Former President Trump’s stranglehold on the Republican party endures, as a vote to remove Liz Cheney from her top seat in the party is rumored to be taking place as early as next week. Cheney has repeatedly refused to pile onto Trump’s claims about election fraud, and has chastised his role in the January 6th election. The rift between Trump supporters and Trump detractors in the Republican party is gradually widening.
- New York Representative Elise Stefanik is thought to be the successor to Cheney’s post, despite being ideologically less conservative than Cheney. However, her loyalty to the former president makes her an appealing candidate. Stefanik vocally defended Trump in his 2020 impeachment scandal. Cheney, on the other hand, was one of the ten House Republicans to vote in favor of impeachment.
- Cheney is not going to go quietly, and wrote a scathing op-ed for the Washington Post last week. In it, she essentially said the Republican party is at a crossroads, and they must move forward without Trump’s shadow looming overhead. (CNN)
Additional USA News
- ‘They Just Launched a War’ (Politico)
- A blinking light ahead: Slowing population growth raises questions about America as a land with unlimited horizons (WaPo, $)
- Quintin Jones Is About to Be Executed. He Shouldn’t Be. (NYT, $)
- ‘The crisis was manufactured’: inside a damning film on the origins of the opioid epidemic (Guardian)
- How the election-fraud myth was spread by Russell Ramsland and the Texas security company ASOG (WaPo, $)
- This is a map of America’s broadband problem (Verge)
The Future Is Getting CRISPR
- Two blind patients, Carlene Knight and Michael Kalberer, are taking part in a landmark experiment in hopes that they may be able to have their vision restored. The experiment is using the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR, which allows scientists to make precise changes in DNA. The technique has shown promise in fighting many diseases such as sickle cell.
- The experiment for which Knight and Kalberer volunteered marks the first time scientists are using CRISPR to edit DNA when it’s still inside patients’ bodies. The first stage of the study, which treated its first patient last year, was designed primarily to assess safety, and so far, the procedure appears to be safe. By the end of the year, researchers said they will be able to share the data on whether the procedure has restored any vision for the patients. (NPR)
- SpaceX accepts dogecoin as payment to launch lunar mission next year (Reuters) & Dogecoin’s value tumbles after Elon Musk calls the virtual currency a ‘hustle’ (Guardian)
- The Pentagon Inches Toward Letting AI Control Weapons (Wired)
- This Moth Is Huge in Australia (NYT, $)
- City identifies X factor to overcome vaccine hesitancy: free beer (Guardian)
- The Wolf Tree and the World Wide Web (Wired)
- How MDMA and Psilocybin Became Hot Investments (NYT, $)
- Flat Pasta That Turns Into 3-D Shapes — Just Add Boiling Water (NYT, $)
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