On May 7, 2021, a ransomware cyber attack on the computer network of the Colonial Pipeline resulted in a days-long shutdown, causing a panicked frenzy along the East Coast.
Hacker group DarkSide facilitated the cyber security invasion, which resulted in Colonial shutting down services as a preemptive measure against further system breaching. The shutdown limited gasoline supply along the pipeline’s 5,500 mile stretch and forced Colonial to pay DarkSide $5 million in cryptocurrency.
Throughout the country, cyber attacks like this one remain a menacing threat for technology departments of vital utilities, including Burbank Water and Power. BWP acts as an entity independently from the City of Burbank, and concentrates on providing residents with reliable, affordable, and sustainable services. The utilities company also takes cyber security into account, and has hired tech savvy team members and forged partnerships to be prepared for any cyber security intruders.
“BWP leverages people, process, and advanced technology to create a multi-layered active defense strategy,” Burbank Water and Power Assistant General Manager and Chief Technology Officer, Jim Compton, said. “Throughout the years we have consistently hired and trained highly skilled in-house cybersecurity staff while also utilizing expert private-sector cybersecurity service and technology providers to be efficient and effective in our approach. Additionally, we routinely work with industry, local, and federal government partners.”
Strategic investments in cybersecurity and assessments of protocol efficacy are focal points for BWP cybersecurity management. Accordingly, responses to incidents such as the pipeline shutdown have been planned out thoroughly by BWP. The company partakes in preparatory exercises and cooperates with response firms to cover all potential outcomes of attempts at compromising their system.
“We have rehearsed for these types of incidents and participated in nationwide exercises with other utilities,” Compton said. “We also use leading third-party cybersecurity incident response firms so that if we were impacted by a ransomware incident we could respond more quickly and reduce the impact to the public.”
As with any computer network, BWP’s technology is not immune to attacks from online hackers. The company’s dedication to being prepared for such events, though, can expectedly yield as quick of a recovery as possible in the face of security invasions.
“Impenetrable security is not a realistic concept,” Compton said. “However, having a plan for if and when you are impacted and being able to pivot to be more resistant to such attacks is our strategy to reduce the risk and to be resilient in the event they ever occur.”
BWP is owned by the citizens of Burbank, and functions as a not-for-profit organization which prioritizes community needs. The organization continues their emphasis on providing efficient services to the City, and protecting all systems which are vital in their operating model.
“At the City of Burbank and BWP, we remain hyper-focused on the cybersecurity of the services we provide to city residents, especially the utilities that people depend on for daily life,” Compton said.