The main supply line of fuel to the East Coast of the country has been closed indefinitely because the operator of the pipeline suffered a cyberattack. This attack is said to be the biggest attack ever performed successfully on oil infrastructure. This could lead to gasoline prices rising and another challenge to the current administration.
The Colonial Pipeline which was attacked runs for 5500 miles. It provides 50% of the diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel to the East Coast. The attack affected the computer systems of the company but not the computer systems that handle the pipeline directly. This company is based in Georgia and shut down its pipeline and has hired a cybersecurity company to look into this ransomware attack. The company shared the shutdown on Friday and has kept in touch with police and federal agencies.
A spokesperson from the White House shared that the President was briefed on this on Saturday and the administration “is working actively to assess the implications of this incident, avoid disruption to supply, and help the company restore pipeline operations as quickly as possible.”
Market analysts believe that if the shutdown lasts for more than a couple of days then the prices for gasoline could increase over $3 a gallon in the Southeastern U.S. That could lead to risks for Biden and steal his momentum for promoting clean energy sources and tackling climate change.
Everything is currently dependent on how fast Colonial can start the pipelines again and that is dependant on the cyber consultants who will let the company know when it is safe to restart.
Rob Lee who is the CEO of Dragos, a cybersecurity firm and also an expert in the risks to industrial computer systems said, “They’ll learn that in the first 24 to 72 hours.” He believes if only the computer systems that handle Colonial’s business were attacked then, “I think it’s going to be relatively short-lived.”
This attack is another incident where hackers have attacked important systems such as oil refineries, water plants, electric grids, or chemical plants. There was another horrible incident where Russia switched off the power supply in Ukraine. This is also a trend in hacking as of now, where hackers use ransomware to attack important targets like police stations, hospitals, and municipal governments to extract payments.
This attack however could be one of the deadliest attacks faced by the country as of yet.
Amy Myers Jaffe who is an energy researcher and author said, “This was not a minor target. Colonial Pipeline is ultimately the jugular of the U.S. pipeline system. It’s the most significant, successful attack on energy infrastructure we know of in the United States. We’re lucky if there are no consequences, but it’s a definite alarm bell.”
As per a researcher, The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency thinks that this attack was performed by Darkside which is a criminal ransomware gang. The incident saw the Energy Department, the FBI, Transportation Security Administration, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission responding to it.