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Were the Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods Hacks Acts of War?

Austin Bay on

It's nationwide knowledge that in early May the Colonial Pipeline company suffered a severe cyberattack that shut down its pipeline connecting Texas to the East Coast. On June 1 JBS Foods suffered another crippling cyberattack. According to industry estimates, JBS controls 20% of the slaughtering capacity for American cattle and hogs. The JBS attack also generated headlines.

The FBI and security officials believe two criminal organizations conducted the attacks. Their names sound a bit like those of the sinister super gangs found in James Bond novels. However, these gangs aren't fiction nor are their crimes.

A crime group called DarkSide shut down Colonial's southeastern U.S. pipeline. To remove its "ransomware" malware and restore service, DarkSide demanded Colonial pay a ransom. Colonial complied.

The FBI attributes the JBS attack to REvil, a cyber mob linked to Russia.

The good news is the Department of Justice has recovered $2.3 million of the $4 million ransom Colonial paid.

This is good news of the grim, hard lesson sort: The economic damage caused by the cyberattacks, and the media coverage they received, revived public concern for infrastructure security in the U.S. and Canada.

 

Colonial Pipeline runs an energy distribution network, which makes it a prime target for criminals seeking a quick ransom. The hack caused a spike in gasoline prices. With each day of the shutdown, the macroeconomic cost rose. So Colonial paid.

JBS Foods, the world's largest meat supplier, is a key link in North America's food supply chain. The JBS attack shut down meatpacking plants in the U.S. and Canada. Secondary effects were also significant. The plant shutdowns disrupted livestock deliveries -- a damaging economic chain reaction in the U.S. and Canada, which could crimp food supplies worldwide.

The digital crimes national security dimensions also deserve examination.

Consider their parallels in physical (kinetic) attacks in conventional warfare.

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