By: SEAN HANRAHAN
On May 7, Colonial Pipeline announced that they were victims of a cybersecurity hack that involved ransomware. In response, the company temporarily put systems offline, which includes IT systems and pipeline operations. The company delivers roughly 45% of the fuel consumed along the East Coast. The company has yet to disclose who made the demand and how much was demanded. Ransomware attacks are usually conducted by criminal hackers to paralyze the victim’s network, then demand a sum of money to decrypt it.
Colonial Pipeline is the backbone for transporting refined oil in the east of the country. The company has 5,500 miles of pipes leading from Houston, Texas to New York City, transporting more than 100 million gallons of fuel daily. Colonial Pipeline also services seven airports directly with jet fuel, along with refining gasoline, diesel, and home heating oil, making the company the nation’s largest oil transporter.
According to some experts, the ransomware attack is unlikely to affect gasoline supply and prices, unless it leads to prolonged shutdowns. A third-party private cybersecurity firm, FireEye, said that they’ve been hired to lead the investigation. Additionally, President Biden was briefed on the attack over the weekend, and Colonial Pipeline confirmed that the Department of Energy is leading the federal government’s response. In a media statement, the company stated that their “operations team is developing a system restart plan” and that their “primary focus continues to be the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system”. As of May 18, there are signs of returning to normal operations, with most states seeing slight declines in overnight outages.