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Cyberattack on US pipeline and its impact on oil prices

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    17th May, 2021

Colonial Pipeline Company that transports about 45 per cent of all petrol and diesel to the east coast of the United States was forced to shut down operations due to a recent cyberattack.


Colonial Pipeline Company that transports about 45 per cent of all petrol and diesel to the east coast of the United States was forced to shut down operations due to a recent cyberattack.


  • cyberattackis an offensive which targets computer information systems, infrastructures, computer networks, or personal computer devices.
  • An attacker attempts to access data, functions, or other restricted areas of the system without authorization, potentially with malicious intent.
  • In 1979, a 16-year-old Kevin Mitnick hacked into The Ark, the computer at the Digital Equipment Corporation, which was used for developing operating systems.
  • There were 53,117 cases of cyber attacksin the country in 2017. This had risen to 208,456 in 2018 and 394,499 in 2019.
    • On average, nearly 3,137 cyber security-related issues were reported daily during 2020.
    • India ranks 3rd in terms of the highest number of internet users in the world after USA and China, the number has grown 6-fold between 2012-2017.
    • India was ranked among the top five countries to be affected by cybercrime


The Cyberattack on oil pipeline

  • It was a ransomware attack on a key US pipeline network.
  • This has led to a disruption in fuel suppliesin the eastern part of the United States.
  • It caused the US federal government to declare a regional emergency to allow transportation of fuels through tanker trucks to tide over the impact of shortages.
  • According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, acriminal gang called Darkside was responsible the cyberattack.
  • Oil prices rose in response to the attack on Colonial Pipeline.

Ransomware attack

  • A ransomware attack is a cyber-attack using malware that encrypts the victim’s files and requires users pay a ransom to decrypt the files.
  • Hackers also added the element of downloading all the data on an enterprise network before encrypting it.
  • The hackers can then threaten to leak the data if the ransom is not paid.

What could be done to protect oil pipelines in future?

  • Zero-trust security framework: The zero-trust approach means anything and everything is suspected whenever any activity is done on the network, and every user which also includes the CEO, will have to be verified time and again.
  • Cloud Access Security Brokers (CPAB): It acts as intermediaries between users and cloud service providers. It could improve an overall cybersecurity strategy.

What Indian government is doing to secure its oil?

  • India’s oil and gas PSUs were making efforts to beef up security, and that organisations managing critical infrastructure such as pipelines and refineries were required by the government to implement certain security measures.

Some of the major cyber attacks in India

  • A Cyberattack took place on Cosmos bank when hackers siphoned off Rs. 94.42 crores.  Canara Bank ATM servers were targeted in around mid-2018. During the attack more than 300 user’s ATM details were hacked by attackers and wiped off 20 lakh rupees from various bank accounts.
  • 1 billion Indian Aadhaar card details were leaked in 2018. UIDAI released the official notification about this data breach and mentioned that around 210 Indian Government websites were hacked.
  • Popular microblogging platform Twitter became victim to cyber-attack through a phone spear-phishing attack in 2020. Almost 130 accounts were said to be compromised. 
  • 20 million user accounts of the Bangalore-based popular edtech platform Unacademy were breached. The breach had exposed usernames, passwords, date joined, email addresses, first and last names, and other information of the users.

International Cyber Security

  • The Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe is known as the Budapest Convention.
  • It is the only binding international instrument on this issue.
  • It serves as a guideline for any country developing comprehensive national legislation against Cybercrime.
  • It acts as framework for international cooperation between State Parties.
  • It was drawn up by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.
  • It was opened for signature in Budapest, in 2001 and entered into force in 2004.
  • Countries such as Brazil and India have declined to adopt the Convention as they did not participate in its drafting.

Indian Government steps

  • CERT-In: Computer Emergency Response Team is operational since January 2004. CERT-In is the national nodal agency for the computer security incidents. CERT-In has been designated to serve as the national agency to perform multiple Cyber Security related issues.
  • Security Officers: The government has issued guidelines for chief information security officers regarding their key roles and responsibilities for securing applications and infrastructure, and compliance.
  • Audits and drill:  It has also mandated regular cyber security audits and mock drills.
  • National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC): It has started to generate situational awareness of existing and potential cyber security threats.
  • National Cyber Security Policy 2013 was formulated to build secure and resilient cyberspace for Indian citizens and businesses.
  • India and Australia also signed 4 year collaboration on cyber affairs and critical technologies. A collective budget of $12.7 million was pledged towards the collaboration.


Due to the drastic changes to the conventional functioning of working due to COVID-19 pandemic, cybersecurity emerged as the biggest challenge. As the world has come to a standstill, it becomes more crucial to work in a more cybersecure world. The international efforts are required to put a curb over it.


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