On Friday May, 7th, a major U.S. gasoline pipeline was attacked by a Russian hacker group, and was forced to shut down. This attack caused President Joe Biden to issue a temporary state of emergency.
Colonial Pipeline is known as one of the nation’s largest pipelines, containing 45 percent of fuel supply in the East Coast. Due to the cyberattack, Colonial had to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of its pipeline. This had an effect on many connecting pipelines in Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Georgia; the federal government has also issued an “emergency declaration” for 17 US states, along with Washington DC.
The Russian hacker group, DarkSide, didn’t force the pipeline to shut down. The closing was done by the company itself, in an effort to contain the breach of security.
“Quickly after learning of the attack, Colonial proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat. These actions temporarily halted all pipeline operations and affected some of our IT systems, which we are actively in the process of restoring,” Colonial says.
In recent years, the number of cyberattacks has increased dramatically. Now, with COVID-19 affecting how many people can go into work, the cyberattack wasn’t as difficult to conduct due to many of the engineers controlling the pipeline systems from their homes.
Many people are working diligently to reconstruct the damage caused to the pipeline. The company says that it will reopen their system “only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations”. However, since Colonial is not a public company, they are under less pressure to share specific details about what happened.
On Wednesday, May 12th, the company announced that they were beginning to restart the pipeline’s usual business, though it could take multiple days to be fully up-and-running.
On Saturday, May 17th, Colonial announced that the company has resumed “normal operations”, but states across the southeast, specifically the Carolinas, are still recovering.
The company is said to have paid a ransom in order for DarkSide to reveal the key to the malware put into the Colonial software. The company paid 75 bitcoin, or almost $5 million in cryptocurrency, in order for the hackers to decode the software.
Many southern cities have very little gasoline available, and the national average gas price is increasing to $3.02. Drivers are being very frugal about the amount of gas they use, not taking any unnecessary trips.
Although many operations have resumed, the company has stated that it will take a few days for business and supply to return as normal.