(Colonial) Billing is Important
Last week, US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for oil pipelines as Colonial Pipeline was dealing with a ransomware incident which received global attention. The incident resulted in Colonial paying $4,400,000 to the hackers responsible for it. I think this shocking event helps underscore how important billing is regardless of what industry you serve.
I read on Twitter (via Ubersmith’s head of DevOps, Michael Styne) that Cybersecurity and national security journalist Kim Zetter wrote in detail about the incident, including the fact that billing may have played a key role in the Colonial’s decision to take its operations down (and impact gas prices, availability and queuing throughout the Southeast and beyond):
“Source also tells me one reason Colonial might have taken operational network down – aside from being cautious – is because they may not be able to invoice customers who receive fuel if their IT network is locked with ransomware, preventing them from being paid for fuel.”
Next, she describes Colonial’s automation that connects its ticketing system to its invoicing system. This is interesting to us at Ubersmith due to our experience in helping customers bill automatically for bandwidth, cloud, virtualization and other resources while also providing a built-in ticketing system.
“Colonial’s op network controls flow of fuel from pipeline to distributors then passes info to ticketing system on IT network to automatically invoice distributors. If the ticket system is locked and pipeline is still flowing, Colonial can’t monitor flow and send invoices to get paid.”
She goes on to explain how the operational network is critical for tracking the flow (a form of usage or consumption in their case) of more than 600 million barrels of oil annually for its distributors. If it was down due to the ransomware incident or another reason, there would likely be no great way to track flow and determine how much to bill its partners:
“If Colonial didn’t already have an alternate plan in place to collect flow data manually and invoice manually, it may have to keep the pipelines down until it can determine an efficient way to do this via the pipeline. Otherwise, transporting via trucks/ships is the alternate.”
I suppose everyone knows billing is important and that operational systems and IT are important. Regardless, this high-profile event helped shine the light on billing and related systems. Hopefully, learning more about it helps us all prepare better against a similar type of situation in the future for our organizations, regardless of our sector or location in the world.
Billing is important.