House Science panel requests briefing with Energy Dept over Colonial hack

May 19, 2021
In The News

Leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are requesting a briefing with the Department of Energy (DOE) on the ransomware attack that forced the Colonial Pipeline to shut down operations for nearly a week.

Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and ranking member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) sent a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Wednesday asking her office to brief committee staff on the agency’s response to the hack and its efforts to address cybersecurity threats.

“DOE’s knowledge of our energy sector and the nuanced challenges facing various energy assets uniquely positions it to confront this emerging threat to our national security,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that the threats “demand robust and efficient coordination, both among federal entities and with other stakeholders within the energy sector.”

“While DOE recently announced a ‘100 day plan’ to address cybersecurity risks for the United States electric system, we seek additional information on how DOE’s current and forthcoming cybersecurity activities incorporate energy resources transmitted via pipelines,” they continued.

The Hill has reached out to the Energy Department for comment.

Colonial, which supplies about 45 percent of fuel on the East Coast, restarted operations last week after being forced to shut down operations to protect operational controls due to the hack. The shutdown led to gas shortages in several states, fueled in part by panic buying of gasoline.

Colonial CEO Joseph Blount confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that the company paid the equivalent of $4.4 million in ransom the day of the attack.

Granholm appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday and said she would support mandatory standards to secure pipelines, similar to standards the electric sector has.

Colonial Pipeline briefed staff members of the House Homeland Security Committee and House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) blasted the company for not sharing specific information on the hack.

“It is deeply troubling that cyber criminals were able to use a ransomware attack to disrupt gas supply on the East Coast and reportedly extort millions of dollars,” they said.

“We’re disappointed that the company refused to share any specific information regarding the reported payment of ransom during today’s briefing,” the leaders said. “In order for Congress to legislate effectively on ransomware, we need this information.”