CONGRESS

Colonial Pipeline Hack Most Significant Ransomware Attack on Critical Infrastructure Ever, Says GOP Congressman John Katko

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  • “This is probably the most significant ransomware attack on one of our critical infrastructures ever, a very significant attack,” Congressman John Katko said.
  • The cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline crippled gas delivery systems in Southeastern states.
  • Katko added that there’s still a long way to go to better secure U.S. critical infrastructure.

John Katko (R-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told CNBC that the ransomware cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline appears to be part of an escalating series of cyberattacks against the U.S.

"This is probably the most significant ransomware attack on one of our critical infrastructures ever, a very significant attack," Katko said. "We've got to understand that even though it wasn't an attack on the operation of a pipeline, it was an attack on the business entity connected to the pipeline."

The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack crippled gas delivery systems in Southeastern states. Nearly 70% of gas stations in North Carolina are still empty, and around half are dry in Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina, according to GasBuddy.com. Colonial restarted operations Wednesday afternoon but said the delivery schedule won't return to normal for several days.

Colonial Pipeline paid a $5 million ransom to hackers. Katko told CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith"  that he doesn't "think it's a great move" for companies to pay the ransom, but if they do, it is critical to follow the money trail. 

"They almost uniformly, with these ransomware attacks, get paid in cryptocurrencies, and we have to find a better way to find a money trail back to where people are getting the cryptocurrency from because that would help a lot," explained Katko. 

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday mandating significant changes to government cybersecurity standards, aimed at strengthening the nation's cyber defenses in critical sectors of the economy.

The congressman added that there's still a long way to go to better secure critical U.S. infrastructure. 

"We've got electrical grids in this country. We have water systems. We have pipelines. We have a lot of critical infrastructure that is really open to some of these ransomware attacks," Katko said.

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