Colonial Pipeline hack – a security warning for any organisation, whatever their size

Categories: Secure your business

The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack of Friday 7 May 2021 caused havoc across the US, with the oil pipeline forced to shut down on 7 May, and remain closed for five days.

Fuel prices rose, and shortages caused many states on the East coast to declare an emergency.

The BBC begins their article of 11 May 2021, with, “The hack on Colonial Pipeline is being seen as one of the most significant attacks on critical national infrastructure in history.”

And the fact that such a high profile, industry-critical organisation could be hacked has caused shockwaves to continue to reverberate around the world.

A wake-up call to all organisations

The news, however, is also serving as a wake-up call to organisations of all size, to ensure that their business is safeguarding against cyberattack.

Smaller businesses can feel themselves protected by their size, under the false impression that they’re too unimportant for cybercriminals to bother with. In fact, recent years have seen a big increase in cybercriminals targeting these smaller businesses, precisely because they’re seen as easy pickings.

Ransomware and phishing

Colonial Pipeline was hit by a ransomware attack – a type of malware that encrypts data and demands a ransom be paid before the data can be recovered, with the cybercriminal often now publishing some of the data as an additional lever for payment.

Another major form of cyberattack is phishing, whereby the cybercriminal fakes emails from genuine organisations to trick victims into giving away sensitive or confidential information – and with spear phishing, the email appears to come from a known, trusted source.

Cyber experts point to the likelihood of the Colonial attack started with an email. For the BBC article, Jon Nichols from CheckPoint says, “Some of the biggest attacks we’ve seen all started with an email. … An employee may have been tricked into downloading some malware, for example.”

Securing your business

Remote working has seen a rise in cybercrime.

In an article posted in March 2021 by NatWest as part of their business guidance series focusing on cyber security they report: “In the early weeks of the first lockdown, security professionals tracked a huge increase in phishing attacks delivered in email. These attacks use email to encourage users to click on a link that installs malware that can then lead to data being copied or retrieved without authorisation – or even a ransomware attack.”

Thom Bailey, Mimecast security specialist, added that email had become the “preferred choice as an attack vector”.

But as the cybercriminals are becoming more active, and in many cases more sophisticated with their attacks, so to is the security industry evolving and developing solutions and services to protect businesses.

Email remains the foremost means of communication for the vast majority of companies, and so it’s essential to ensure email security across the business.

For security advice …

… we’re here to help.

Give us a call (0333 009 5941) or email ( to start the ball rolling – and in the meantime you can find useful information about email security on our Mimecast webpage.