Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount will testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security next month as lawmakers seek additional details on the ransomware attack that resulted in a dayslong shutdown of the largest pipeline on the Eastern Seaboard, officials said Thursday.
Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., said the hearing would take place in a virtual format on June 9. Blount is expected to face tough questions from lawmakers concerned about the company’s response to the attack, including its decision to make a ransom payment to hacker group DarkSide.
"The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack and the related fuel shortages laid bare three urgent challenges facing the nation: cybersecurity vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, the need to build resilience into our networks, and the profitability of ransomware," the committee said in a press release.
"To address these urgent challenges, Congress must have a complete understanding of what happened on Colonial Pipeline’s networks, how it made decisions related to network operations and ransom payments, and how it leveraged support from the Federal government and private sector."
The Colonial Pipeline shut down for several days following the ransomware attack, prompting panic-buying in several states and concerns of a potential fuel shortage. The pipeline supplies 45% of fuel shipments on the East Coast.
Earlier this week, Blount admitted that Colonial Pipeline paid $4.4 million to the hacker group in a bid to regain control of its data and restore service. He said the company paid the ransom because it was unsure of the extent of the breach.
"I know that’s a highly controversial decision," Blount told the Wall Street Journal. "I didn’t make it lightly. I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this. But it was the right thing to do for the country."
Rep. Jim Langevin, D-RI, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said he planned to grill Blount about the decision during next month’s hearing.
Lawmakers have been critical of Colonial Pipeline for failing to prevent the attack and for not being more transparent with authorities in its aftermath.
Earlier this week, Thompson and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight, said in a joint statement that they were "disappointed" the company was not more forthcoming about its ransom payment.