Recent press reports indicate that a cyber-attack disabled the third-party platform used by oil and gas pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners to exchange documents with other customers. Effects from the attack were largely confined because no other systems were impacted, including, most notably, industrial controls for critical infrastructure. However, the attack comes on the heels of a Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) alert warning of Russian attempts to use tactics including spearphishing, watering hole attacks, and credential gathering to target industrial control systems throughout critical infrastructure, as well as an indictment against Iranian nationals who used similar tactics to attack private, education, and government intuitions, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”). These incidents are raising questions about cybersecurity across the US pipeline network.
In the wake of an attack last year on an electric substation in California, four U.S. Senators have written a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, urging them to adopt mandatory standards for physical security at electric power facilities. During the attack, unidentified gunmen disabled 17 transformers by firing shots from a high-powered rifle through a fence surrounding the facility. Calling the incident a “wake-up call” to the risks of physical attacks on the grid, the lawmakers expressed concern that current voluntary measures may be insufficient to minimize the risks of such attacks in the future.