With the cyberattack that hit the Colonial Pipeline, a 5,500-mile oil pipe that starts in Houston and ends in New York, there came widespread panic and gasoline shortages across the eastern part of our country. This raises the question of the critical infrastructure of South Dakota, as well as the cybersecurity of all of the businesses and organizations throughout the state.
Let’s dig into the importance of this cybersecurity, and how our state has handled it thus far.
I’m sure that nobody needs the reminder yet, but the interruption of a pipeline that supplies almost half of the East Coast’s gasoline supply for just over a week had significant impacts for many, many people… and it is far from the only example of a serious cyberattack on critical infrastructure. Iranian hackers have been cited as attacking utility providers, factories, dams, and gas refineries. Just in February of this year, in fact, a small city in Florida called Oldsmar was attacked by a hacker who used a remote access tool to increase the concentration of lye in the city’s water supply.
It is no secret that infrastructure has become an increasingly popular target for such attacks… something that we need to be particularly concerned about here in South Dakota. For instance, South Dakota features 90 high-hazard dams, almost 6,000 bridges (almost one-in-five of which were structurally deficient in 2019), and almost 200 miles of levees protecting thousands of residents. Between 2008 and 2017, there were 162 power outages in the state. 80 percent of the electricity generated in 2020 came from hydroelectric power plants and windmills.
If any of these pieces of infrastructure were to be interrupted, we would have serious problems, from any of a variety of sources.
That is an excellent question. Unfortunately, it isn’t even close to answerable right now. The Department of Public Safety has gone on record to say “that it is the department policy not to discuss security issues.”
Regardless, it is an important discussion to have. As we outlined above, South Dakota is hugely dependent on a variety of critical pieces of infrastructure, making the idea that cybercriminals and extortionists are increasingly targeting them to accomplish their own goals deeply unsettling.
The Office of the Governor has confirmed, however, that House Bill 1281 (also known as the BRITTLE fund) was passed. This ensures that $10 million would be set aside for the purpose of updating or replacing their problematic applications.
Whether you’re discussing public utilities or a private business’ data stores, security—cyber and physical—is a critical aspect of modern operations. Without this security, things can (and as we have seen, often do) spiral into disaster. Avoiding this through improved IT management and installing proactive security measures can prove to be a wise investment into your organization.
KT Connections is here to help. As the leading IT provider in Rapid City, South Dakota, we’re here to assist businesses with their technology in any way we can so that they can accomplish more.
This includes implementing a few technologies that can help keep your business from befalling what happened to Colonial Pipeline. While the double extortion that had impacted the pipeline may have complicated the issue considerably, we’d ensure that your systems could be restored from a backup and your productivity continue. The problem is, as is often the case, many businesses don’t have a backup they can rely on.
While it may be easy to make these kinds of claims in retrospect, we are firm proponents of the idea that it is always better to be prepared. We’re ready to help you make these preparations. To learn more about the ways we can reinforce your business against threats like this—and many other similar ones—reach out to us at 888-891-4201.
Rodd Ahrenstorff is the Director of Business Operations for KT Connections, as well as a member of the company’s ownership team starting in 2014. Rodd has been working in the computer and telecommunication fields for over twenty years—a term during which he has held a number of leadership positions. In the past, he has served as a broadcast television engineer, an systems architect, and most recently Director of Information Technology, including a role as a HIPAA Security Officer for behavioral health and multi-specialty medical providers.