Over the last year, reliance on remote work technology drove a rapid increase in digital transformation, pushing security teams to expand protective measures with a quick turnaround and exposing vulnerabilities for bad actors to exploit in the process. It’s no surprise that as the world has settled into its new normal and security teams have slowed the modification of their practices, the number of successful, large-scale cyber-attacks have astronomically increased (62% in the last year, to be exact). A perfect example of this is the recent Colonial Pipeline Hack. But what does this mean for the security industry as a whole?

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Understanding the impact

The security industry is in the business of just that: security. To execute that appropriately, organizations must actively and consistently instill protective measures that lead to a secure and impenetrable supply chain. How can we do that if cyber-attacks are reaching an all-time high? First, we need to break down successful hacks to understand where they come from and what they’re leveraging.

What is the Colonial Pipeline hack, and who is responsible?

The Colonial Pipeline, owned by Colonial Pipeline Co., is the largest oil pipeline on the East Coast, operating over 5,500 miles (about twice the width of the United States) and providing 45% of fuel to the area. In early May, a hack to the pipeline exposed supply chain vulnerabilities for thousands of companies reliant on the oil and shut down fuel supply to the region for a multiple-day period. Let’s look at what we know about the hack:

  • Over the weekend of Saturday, May 8, 2021, Colonial Pipeline Co. announces a hack in their system.
  • On Saturday, May 8, the pipeline shuts down entirely.
  • On Sunday, May 9, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) federal motor carrier administration issues a temporary hours of service exemption in response to the shutdown.
  • On Monday, May 10, the FBI formally announces that the criminal gang known as Darkside is responsible for the hack.
  • On Wednesday, May 12, events are still unfolding, and Colonial delivers fuel to the most heavily impacted markets. The pipeline is still shut down, with no clear indication on when it will be back online.

How can you avoid hacks?

As an organization grows and becomes more reliant on third-party technology, it will more heavily rely on its supply chain, increasing attack susceptibility. This can shut down an organization’s operations and create a ripple effect of significant issues for both its vendors and the general public. As a supplier, it’s not just about protecting yourself from ransomware but protecting all the markets and individual organizations that you serve. How can we work to avoid large-scale hacks in the future?

Conduct thorough due diligence

As we see a surge in successful hacking attempts, the most crucial place to start is by conducting thorough due diligence to identify key areas of weakness in your supply chain. Part of this due diligence is making sure that your organization has a holistic view of its security posture, including its vendor ecosystem and any gaps that it presents. This reduces the likelihood that one of your vendors will become the victim of ransomware.

Learn more about managing vendor risk: Expert Panel: How Do You Manage Vendor Risk?

Have a contingency plan in place

Alternatively, have a backup or contingency plan in place to help alleviate any interruption caused by a third parties’ inability to operate. It’s essential to understand your ecosystem and overall security posture, but it’s equally important to have an actionable plan in place in the event that a point of your supply chain is compromised, and you need to act fast.

Want to learn if you’re a trusted vendor? Check out our guide to 10 Things Every Customer Wants to Know.

So, what does this mean for me?

The Colonial Pipeline continues to affect millions of Americans, showcasing that a compromise in the supply chain of a major company can cause a ripple effect through multiple points of multiple markets. As an organization, it’s your responsibility to maintain a relationship of trust with your vendors and customers, and large-scale hacks are a direct reminder of what can happen when proper steps aren’t taken to maintain that relationship.

To do this, you need to gain visibility into your supply chain and conduct vendor risk assessments that can help you spot security vulnerabilities in the vendor ecosystem.

OneTrust Vendorpedia’s Third-Party Risk Exchange, a community of thousands of pre-completed vendor risk assessments, uses the SIG Lite assessment, which asks questions specific to controls that can help you determine if your vendors as susceptible to ransomware attacks. Learn more today


Further Colonial Pipeline hack reading: 

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