Ransomware forces Colonial, the largest pipeline in the United States, to shut down

Illustration from article titled Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline in the United States, shut down due to ransomware attack

Photo: John Randeris Hansen / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP (Getty Images)

If you live on the East Coast and fuel prices are going up soon, chances are it’s because of the cyberattack that forced the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, the largest refined product pipeline in the country. There is currently no indication of when it will restart.

Operators of the Colonial Pipeline – a 5,500-mile system that delivers fuel from refineries in Houston, Texas to New York Port – shut down the entire system due to the cyberattack, which officials revealed on Saturday to be ransomware. Hackers who use ransomware, a type of malware, encrypts a victim’s files and demands a ransom payment in order to restore access.

According to NBC News, the pipeline, which is owned by a company of the same name, transports 2.5 million barrels of gas, diesel, jet fuel and other refined products per day.

Colonial Pipeline (the company), which is controlled by companies such as Koch Industries and Royal Dutch Shell, says it is responsible for transporting 45% of the East Coast’s fuel supply, the outlet said. . In a report on its website on Saturday, the company said he had hired a leading third-party cybersecurity company to investigate The incident. the the Wall Street newspaper reported that cybersecurity firm FireEye was investigating the attack.

Colonial Pipeline said that after determining that the cyber attack involved ransomware, it “proactively took some systems offline to contain the threat, which temporarily halted all pipeline operations and affected some of our computer systems.

The company has contacted law enforcement and other federal agencies, it said in the statement.

In the Journal report, two people familiar with the investigation said the attack appeared to be limited to information systems at Colonial Pipeline. It appeared that this had not affected its operational control systems, they said, adding that the inspection was still in its early stages.

This is not the first time that the Colonial Pipeline has made headlines in recent months. Earlier this year, the company revealed that a spill in North Carolina last August resulted in a leak of 1.2 million gallons of gasoline, the largest spill since 1997. Initially, the company said only 63,000 gallons had been disclosed, but that number has risen steadily.

It is not known when the pipeline will resume operations. Colonial Pipeline said it was taking steps to understand and resolve the issue.

“Right now our primary focus is on the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation,” said Colonial Pipeline.. “This process is already underway and we are working diligently to resolve this issue and minimize disruption for our customers and those who depend on Colonial Pipeline.”

The federal government recently sounded the alarm on the threat posed by ransomware attacks. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Wednesday these attacks were on the rise and targets ranged from government agencies to small businesses. The threat is real, Mayorkas said, and there is a risk to all of us.

In addition, last month, a note from the Department of Justice obtained by CNN said the agency has created a new task force dedicated to confronting and responding to ransomware threats.

Regarding the price increases, Reuters points out that prices should not increase unless the shutdown lasts longer than three days. The southeastern states of the country would likely see the first price jumps. In 2016, for example, a leak from the colonial system forced the line to shut down for more than 10 days, pushing prices up to more than 30 cents per gallon.

Update 8/5/2021, 11:18 p.m. ET: This article has been updated with additional information provided by Colonial Pipeline.

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