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DHS issues Security Directive in wake of Colonial Pipeline attack

DHS issues Security Directive in wake of Colonial Pipeline attack Directive issues new cybersecurity requirements for critical pipeline owners and operators

DHS issues Security Directive in wake of Colonial Pipeline attack

WASHINGTON—In the wake of the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack that crippled the nation’s critical infrastructure earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced a Security Directive on May 27, 2021, that will enable the Department to better identify, protect against and respond to threats to critical companies in the pipeline sector.

The Security Directive 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 to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will also require critical pipeline owners and operators to review their current practices, as well as identify any gaps and related remediation measures to address cyber-related risks and report the results to TSA and CISA within 30 days.

This directive comes in the wake of arguably the largest cyberattack against U.S. critical infrastructure in the country’s history, when Colonial Pipeline suffered a devastating ransomware attack on May 6 at the hands of cybercriminal group DarkSide. The cyberattack shut off the country’s largest fuel pipeline - delivery of an estimated 45 percent of fuel consumed on the East Coast - for nearly one week before resuming fuel delivery on May 12.

“The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, and we must adapt to address new and emerging threats,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the directive. “The recent ransomware attack on a major petroleum pipeline demonstrates that the cybersecurity of pipeline systems is critical to our homeland security. DHS will continue to work closely with our private sector partners to support their operations and increase the resilience of our nation’s critical infrastructure.”

This directive comes approximately two weeks after President Biden signed an Executive Orderto improve the nation’s cybersecurity and protect Federal Government networks. 

The statement also noted that TSA is considering “follow-on mandatory measures that will further support the pipeline industry in enhancing its cybersecurity and that strengthen the public-private partnership so critical to the cybersecurity of our homeland.”

Since 2001, TSA has worked closely with pipeline owners and operators as well as its partners across the federal government to enhance the physical security preparedness of U.S. hazardous liquid and natural gas pipeline systems. As the nation’s lead agency for protecting critical infrastructure against cybersecurity threats, CISA provides cybersecurity resources to mitigate potential risks, including through a dedicated hub that disseminates information to organizations, communities, and individuals about how to better protect against ransomware attacks.

The new TSA Security Directive also highlights the critical role that CISA plays as the country’s national cyber defense center. Last December, Congress, through the National Defense Authorization Act, empowered CISA to execute its mission to secure federal civilian government networks and U.S. critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats.


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